521 U.S. 320 (1997), 96-6298, Lindh v. Murphy

Docket NºCase No. 96-6298
Citation521 U.S. 320, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481, 65 U.S.L.W. 4557
Case DateJune 23, 1997
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 320

521 U.S. 320 (1997)

117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481, 65 U.S.L.W. 4557




Case No. 96-6298

United States Supreme Court

June 23, 1997

Argued April 14, 1997

Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit


Wisconsin tried petitioner Lindh on noncapital murder and attempted murder charges. In response to his insanity defense, the State called a psychiatrist who had examined Lindh but who had come under criminal investigation for sexual exploitation of patients before the trial began. Lindh's attempt to question the doctor about that investigation in hopes of showing the doctor's interest in currying favor with the State was barred by the trial court, and Lindh was convicted. He was denied relief on his direct appeal, in which he claimed a violation of the Confrontation Clause. He raised that claim again in a federal habeas corpus application, which was denied, and he promptly appealed. Shortly after oral argument before the Seventh Circuit, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Act) amended the federal habeas statute. Following an en banc rehearing to consider the Act's impact, the court held that the amendments to chapter 153 of Title 28, which governs all habeas proceedings, generally apply to cases pending on the date of enactment; that applying the new version of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)—which governs standards affecting entitlement to relief—to pending cases would not have a retroactive effect barring its application under Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244, because it would not attach new legal consequences to events preceding enactment; and that the statute applied to Lindh's case.


Since the new provisions of chapter 153 generally apply only to cases filed after the Act became effective, they do not apply to pending noncapital cases such as Lindh's. Pp. 324-337.

(a) Wisconsin errs in arguing that whenever a new statute on its face could apply to the litigation of events preceding enactment, there are only two alternative sources of rules to determine its ultimate temporal reach: either Congress's express command or application of the Land-graf default rule governing retroactivity. Normal rules of construction apply in determining a statute's temporal reach generally and whether a statute's terms would produce a retroactive effect. Although Land-graf 's rule would deny application when a retroactive effect would otherwise result, other construction rules may apply to remove even the possibility of retroactivity (as by rendering the statutory provision

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wholly inapplicable to a particular case), as Lindh argues the recognition of a negative implication would do here. Pp. 324-326.

(b) The statute reveals Congress's general intent to apply the chapter 153 amendments only to cases filed after its enactment. The Act revised chapter 153 for all habeas proceedings. Then §107 of the Act created an entirely new chapter 154 for habeas proceedings in capital cases, with special rules favorable to those States that meet certain conditions. Section 107(c) expressly applies chapter 154 to pending cases. The negative implication is that the chapter 153 amendments were meant to apply only to cases filed after enactment. If Congress was reasonably concerned to ensure that chapter 154 applied to pending cases, only a different intent explains the fact that it did not enact a similar provision for chapter 153. Had the chapters evolved separately and been joined together at the last minute, after chapter 154 had acquired its mandate, there might have been a possibility that Congress intended the same rule for each chapter, but was careless in the rough-and-tumble. But those are not the circumstances here: § 107(c) was added after the chapters were introduced as a single bill. Section 107(c)'s insertion thus illustrates the familiar rule that negative implications raised by disparate provisions are strongest when the portions of a statute treated differently had already been joined together and were being considered simultaneously when the language raising the implication was inserted. See Field v. Mans, 516 U.S. 59. Respondent's one competing explanation—that § 107(c) was intended to fix an ambiguity over when a State would qualify for chapter 154's favorable rules—is too remote to displace the straightforward inference that chapter 153 was not meant to apply to pending cases. Finally, while new § 2264(b)—which was enacted within chapter 154 and provides that new §§ 2254(d) and (e) in chapter 153 would apply to pending chapter 154 cases—does not speak to the present issue with flawless clarity, it tends to confirm the interpretation of § 107(c) adopted here. It shows that Congress assumed that in the absence of § 2264(b), new §§ 2254(d) and (e) would not apply to pending cases. Pp. 326-337.

96 F.3d 856, reversed and remanded.

Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, O'Connor, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined, post, p. 337.

James S. Liebman argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Richard C. Neuhoff and Keith A. Findley.

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Sally L. Wellman, Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief was James E. Doyle, Attorney General.[*]

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 110 Stat. 1214, signed into law on April 24, 1996, enacted the present 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (1994 ed., Supp.II). The issue in this case is whether that new section of the statute dealing with petitions for habeas corpus governs

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applications in noncapital cases that were already pending when the Act was passed. We hold that it does not.


Wisconsin tried Aaron Lindh on multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. In response to his insanity defense, the State called a psychiatrist who had spoken with Lindh immediately after the killings but had later, and before Lindh's trial, come under criminal investigation by the State for sexual exploitation of some of his patients. Although, at trial, Lindh tried to ask the psychiatrist about that investigation, hoping to suggest the witness's interest in currying favor with the State, the trial court barred the questioning. Lindh was convicted.

On direct appeal, Lindh claimed a violation of the Confrontation Clause of the National Constitution, but despite the denial of relief, Lindh sought neither review in this Court nor state collateral review. Instead, on July 9, 1992, he filed a habeas corpus application in the United States District Court, in which he again argued his Confrontation Clause claim. When relief was denied in October 1995, Lindh promptly appealed to the Seventh Circuit. Shortly after oral argument there, however, the federal habeas statute was amended, and the Seventh Circuit ordered Lindh's case be reheard en banc to see whether the new statute applied to Lindh and, if so, how his case should be treated.

The Court of Appeals held that the Act's amendments to chapter 153 of Title 28 generally did apply to cases pending on the date of enactment. 96 F.3d 856, 863 (1996). Since the court did not read the statute as itself answering the questions whether or how the newly amended version of § 2254(d) would apply to pending applications like Lindh's, id., at 861-863, it turned to this Court's recent decision in Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244 (1994). Landgraf held that, where a statute did not clearly mandate an application with retroactive effect, a court had to determine

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whether applying it as its terms ostensibly indicated would have genuinely retroactive effect; if so, the judicial presumption against retroactivity would bar its application. The Seventh Circuit concluded that applying the new § 2254(d) to cases already pending would not have genuinely retroactive effect because it would not attach "new legal consequences" to events preceding enactment, and the court held the statute applicable to Lindh's case. 96 F.3d, at 863-867 (citing Landgraf, supra, at 270). On the authority of the new statute, the court then denied relief on the merits. 96 F.3d, at 868-877.

The Seventh Circuit's decision that the new version of § 2254(d) applies to pending, chapter 153 cases conflicts with the holdings of Edens v. Hannigan, 87 F.3d 1109, 1112, n. 1 (CA10 1996), Boria v. Keane, 90 F.3d 36, 37-38 (CA2 1996) (per curiam), and Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484 (CA91997). In accord with the Seventh Circuit is the § 2253(c) case of Hunter v. United States, 101 F.3d 1565, 1568-1573 (CA11 1996) (en banc) (relying on Lindh to hold certain amendments to chapter 153 applicable to pending cases). We granted certiorari limited to the question whether the new § 2254(d) applies to Lindh's case, 519 U.S. 1074 (1996), and we now reverse.


Before getting to the statute itself, we have to address Wisconsin's argument that whenever a new statute on its face could apply to the litigation of events that occurred before it was enacted, there are only two alternative sources of rules to determine its ultimate temporal reach: either an "express command" from Congress or application of our Landgraf default rule. In Landgraf, we said:

"When a case implicates a federal statute enacted after the events in suit, the court's first task is to determine whether Congress has expressly prescribed the statute's proper reach. If Congress has done so, of course, there is no need to resort to judicial default

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rules. When, however, the statute contains no such express command, the court must determine whether the new statute would have retroactive effect . . . . If the statute would operate retroactively, our traditional presumption teaches...

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