518 U.S. 651 (1996), 95-8836, Felker v. Turpin

Docket Nº:No. 95-8836 (A-890)
Citation:518 U.S. 651, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827, 64 U.S.L.W. 4677
Case Date:June 28, 1996
Court:United States Supreme Court

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518 U.S. 651 (1996)

116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827, 64 U.S.L.W. 4677




No. 95-8836 (A-890)

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 1996

Argued June 3, 1996



After he was convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to death by a Georgia state court, petitioner was denied relief on direct appeal, in two rounds of state collateral proceedings, and in a first round of federal habeas corpus proceedings. While he was awaiting execution, the President signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Act), Title I of which, as here pertinent, requires dismissal of a claim presented in a state prisoner's second or successive federal habeas application if the claim was also presented in a prior application, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(1); compels dismissal of a claim that was not presented in a prior federal application, unless certain conditions apply, § 2244(b)(2); creates a "gatekeeping" mechanism, whereby the prospective applicant files in the court of appeals a motion for leave to file a second or successive habeas application in the district court, and a three-judge panel determines whether the application makes a prima facie showing that it satisfies § 2244(b)'s requirements, § 2244(b)(3); and declares that a panel's grant or denial of authorization to file "shall not be appealable and shall not be the subject of a petition for . . .writ of certiorari," § 2244(b)(3)(E). Petitioner filed a motion for leave to file a second federal habeas petition, which the Eleventh Circuit denied on the grounds, inter alia, that the claims to be raised therein had not been presented in his first petition and did not meet § 2244(b)(2)'s conditions. Petitioner then filed in this Court a pleading styled a "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [and] for Appellate or Certiorari Review. . . ." The Court granted certiorari, ordering briefing on the extent to which Title I's provisions apply to a habeas petition filed in this Court, whether application of the Act suspended habeas in this case, and whether Title I, especially the provision to be codified at § 2244(b)(3)(E), unconstitutionally restricts the Court's jurisdiction.


1. The Act does not preclude this Court from entertaining an application for habeas corpus relief, although it does affect the standards governing the granting of such relief. Pp. 658-663.

(a) Title I does not deprive this Court of jurisdiction to entertain habeas petitions filed as original matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241

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and 2254. No Title I provision mentions the Court's authority to entertain such original petitions; in contrast, §103 amends the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure to bar consideration of original habeas petitions in the courts of appeals. Although § 2244(b)(3)(E) precludes the Court from reviewing, by appeal or certiorari, the latter courts' decisions exercising the "gatekeeping" function for second habeas petitions, it makes no mention of the Court's original habeas jurisdiction. Thus, the Court declines to find a repeal of § 2241 by implication. See Ex parte Yerger, 8 Wall. 85, 105. This conclusion obviates any claim by petitioner under the Constitution's Exceptions Clause, Art. III, § 2, which provides, inter alia, that, "[i]n all . . . Cases. . .the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions . . . as the Congress shall make." Since the Act does not repeal the Court's authority to entertain a habeas petition, there can be no plausible argument that it deprives the Court of appellate jurisdiction in violation of that Clause. Pp. 658-662.

(b) Title I changes the standards governing this Court's consideration of habeas petitions by imposing new requirements under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), which limits the Court's authority to grant relief to state prisoners. Section 2244(b)(3)'s "gatekeeping" system does not apply to the Court because it is limited to applications "filed in the district court." There is no such limitation, however, on the restrictions imposed by §§ 2244(b)(1) and (2), and those restrictions inform the Court's authority to grant relief on original habeas petitions, whether or not the Court is bound by the restrictions. Pp. 662-663.

2. The Act does not violate the Constitution's Suspension Clause, Art. I, § 9, cl. 2, which provides that "[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended." The new restrictions on successive habeas petitions constitute a modified res judicata rule, a restraint on what is called in habeas practice "abuse of the writ." The doctrine of abuse of the writ refers to a complex and evolving body of equitable principles informed and controlled by historical usage, statutory developments, and judicial decisions. McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467, 489. The new restrictions are well within the compass of this evolutionary process and do not amount to a "suspension" of the writ. Pp. 663-664.

3. The petition for an original writ of habeas corpus is denied. Petitioner's claims do not satisfy the § 2244(b)(2) requirements, let alone this Court's Rule 20.4(a), which requires that the habeas petitioner show "exceptional circumstances" justifying the issuance of the writ and says that habeas relief is rarely granted. Petitioner's claims here do not materially differ from numerous other claims made by successive habeas petitioners that the Court has had occasion to review on stay applications. Pp. 664-665.

Certiorari dismissed for want of jurisdiction; writ of habeas corpus denied.

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Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Souter and Breyer, JJ., joined, post, p. 665. Souter, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Stevens and Breyer, JJ., joined, post, p. 666.

Henry P. Monaghan argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief were Stephen C. Bayliss, Mary Elizabeth Wells, and Mark Evan Olive.

Susan V. Boleyn, Senior Assistant Attorney General of Georgia, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the briefs were Michael J. Bowers, Attorney General, Mary Beth Westmoreland, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Paige Reese Whitaker, Assistant Attorney General.

Solicitor General Days argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae. With him on the brief were Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, James A. Feldman, Malcolm L. Stewart, Robert J. Erickson, and David S. Kris.[*]

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Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

Title I of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Act) works substantial changes to chapter 153 of Title 28 of the United States Code, which authorizes federal courts to grant the writ of habeas corpus. Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1217. We hold that the Act does not preclude this Court from entertaining an application for habeas corpus relief, although it does affect the standards governing the granting of such relief. We also conclude that the availability of such relief in this Court obviates any claim by petitioner under the Exceptions Clause of Article III, § 2, of the Constitution, and that the operative provisions of the Act do not violate the Suspension Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 9.


On a night in 1976, petitioner approached Jane W. in his car as she got out of hers. Claiming to be lost and looking for a party nearby, he used a series of deceptions to induce Jane to accompany him to his trailer home in town. Petitioner

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forcibly subdued her, raped her, and sodomized her. Jane pleaded with petitioner to let her go, but he said he could not because she would notify the police. She escaped later, when petitioner fell asleep. Jane notified the police, and petitioner was eventually convicted of aggravated sodomy and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment.

Petitioner was paroled four years later. On November 23, 1981, he met Joy Ludlam, a cocktail waitress, at the lounge where she worked. She was interested in changing jobs, and petitioner used a series of deceptions involving offering her a job at "The Leather Shoppe," a business he owned, to induce her to visit him the next day. The last time Joy was seen alive was the evening of the next day. Her dead body was discovered two weeks later in a creek. Forensic analysis established that she had been beaten, raped, and sodomized, and that she had been strangled to death before being left in the creek. Investigators discovered hair resembling petitioner's on Joy's body and clothes, hair resembling Joy's in petitioner's bedroom, and clothing fibers like those in Joy's coat in the hatchback of petitioner's car. One of petitioner's neighbors reported seeing Joy's car at petitioner's house the day she disappeared.

A jury convicted...

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