Ylst v. Nunnemaker, No. 90-68

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion. BLACKMUN
PartiesEddie S. YLST, Warden, Petitioner v. Owen Duane NUNNEMAKER
Decision Date24 June 1991
Docket NumberNo. 90-68

501 U.S. 797
111 S.Ct. 2590
115 L.Ed.2d 706
Eddie S. YLST, Warden, Petitioner

v.

Owen Duane NUNNEMAKER.

No. 90-68.
Argued March 19, 1991.
Decided June 24, 1991.
Syllabus

Following his California murder conviction, respondent raised a Miranda claim for the first time on direct appeal, in violation of a state procedural rule. In affirming the conviction, the State Court of Appeal rejected the claim on the sole basis of the procedural bar. After successive petitions for collateral relief were denied without opinion by the State Superior Court and Court of Appeal, respondent filed a habeas petition in the State Supreme Court, which denied relief without opinion or explanation, citing its decisions in In re Swain and In re Waltreus. When the State Supreme Court denied, without opinion or citation, a second habeas petition to it, respondent filed a habeas petition raising the Miranda claim in Federal District Court. That court found that the state procedural default barred federal review, but the Court of Appeals reversed this determination. Relying on this Court's statement in Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 263, 109 S.Ct. 1038, 1043, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 that state procedural default bars federal review only when the state court clearly and expressly states its reliance on that ground, the court held that the State Supreme Court's "silent denial" of respondent's second state habeas petition lifted the procedural bar imposed on direct review.

Held: A state court's unexplained denial of a habeas petition raising federal claims is not sufficient, for purposes of federal review, to lift a procedural bar imposed on direct appeal. Pp. 801-806.

(a) The Court of Appeals erred in applying a presumption that when a state court denies a federal claim without explicit reliance on state grounds, the merits of the federal claim are the basis for the judgment. The Harris presumption in favor of federal review is to be applied only after it has been determined that "the relevant state court decision . . . fairly appear[s] to rest primarily on federal law or [is] interwoven with federal law." Coleman v. Thompson, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 2546, --- L.Ed.2d ----. P. 802.

(b) With respect to unexplained state-court judgments, federal habeas courts should apply the following presumption: where there has been one reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground. If an earlier opinion "fairly appear[s] to rest primarily upon federal law," it should be presumed that no procedural default has been invoked by a subsequent unexplained order that leaves the judg-

Page 798

ment or its consequences in place. Similarly, where the last reasoned opinion on the claim explicitly imposes a procedural default, it should be presumed that a later decision rejecting the claim did not silently disregard the bar and consider the merits. This "look-through" presumption may be rebutted by strong evidence to the contrary. Pp. 803-804.

(c) The last explained state-court judgment on respondent's Miranda claim was that of the Court of Appeal on direct review, which unequivocally rested upon a state procedural default. None of the later judgments or orders was informative on the reason for denying the Miranda claim, nor has respondent adduced strong evidence that one of them reached the merits of that claim. Thus, federal-court review is barred unless respondent can establish "cause and prejudice" for his default, see Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 493, 495-496, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 2648, 2649-2650, 91 L.Ed.2d 397. On remand, the Court of Appeals must determine whether he has done so. Pp. 805-806.

904 F.2d 473, (CA 9 1990) reversed and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and STEVENS, JJ., joined.

Clifford K. Thompson, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioner.

Juliana Drous, San Francisco, Cal., for respondent.

Page 799

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case we decide whether the unexplained denial of a petition for habeas corpus by a state court lifts a state procedural bar imposed on direct appeal, so that a state prisoner may then have his claim heard on the merits in a federal habeas proceeding.

I

In 1975, respondent Nunnemaker was tried in California state court for murder. He raised a defense of diminished capacity and introduced psychiatric testimony in support. In response, the State introduced—without objection from respondent—the testimony of a psychiatrist based upon a custodial interview. The jury found respondent guilty. He appealed, claiming for the first time that the State's psychiatric testimony was inadmissible because the interview had not been preceded by a Miranda warning, see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). In addition, he alleged that his attorney's failure to object to the psychiatric testimony amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel, and raised other claims not relevant here.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction. The sole basis for its rejection of the Miranda claim was the state procedural rule that "an objection based upon a Miranda violation cannot be raised for the first time on appeal." App. 15. See People v. Bennett, 60 Cal.App.3d 112, 116, 131 Cal.Rptr. 305, 306-307 (1976); In re Dennis M., 70 Cal.2d 444, 461-462, 75 Cal.Rptr. 1, 11-12, 450 P.2d 296, 306-307 (1969). The California Supreme Court denied discretionary review on September 27, 1978.

Page 800

In 1985, respondent filed a petition for collateral relief in California Superior Court. The petition was denied without opinion. Respondent then filed a similar petition for relief in the California Court of Appeal, invoking that court's original jurisdiction. That petition was also denied without opinion. Finally, respondent filed a petition for habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, invoking the original jurisdiction of that tribunal. That petition was denied on December 3, 1986, with citation of In re Swain, 34 Cal.2d 300, 304, 209 P.2d 793, 796 (1949), and In re Waltreus, 62 Cal.2d 218, 225, 42 Cal.Rptr. 9, 13, 397 P.2d 1001, 1005 (1965). App. 82. No opinion or other explanation accompanied these citations.

Respondent next filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The court dismissed the petition without prejudice, ruling that it was not clear whether respondent had exhausted his state remedies with respect to all his claims.1 See Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 71 L.Ed.2d 379 (1982). Respondent then filed a second petition for habeas relief in the California Supreme Court, again invoking that court's original jurisdiction. That petition was denied, without opinion or case citation, on April 7, 1988.

Respondent then filed a second petition for habeas relief in the Northern District of California, raising the Miranda claim and the ineffectiveness claim. The court rejected the ineffectiveness claim on the merits. As to the Miranda claim, the court found that respondent's state procedural default barred federal review. Respondent appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part. The court agreed that the ineffective assistance claim was

Page 801

meritless. However, relying upon our intervening opinion in Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 109 S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 (1989), the court held that the California Supreme Court's "silent denial" of respondent's second state habeas petition to that court lifted the procedural bar arising from the decision on direct review. Specifically, the Ninth Circuit held that because the California Supreme Court did not "clearly and expressly state its reliance on Nunnemaker's procedural default," the federal court could not say that the Supreme Court's order "was based on a procedural default rather than on the underlying merits of Nunnemaker's claims." 904 F.2d 473, 476 (1990). We granted certiorari, 498 U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 384, 112 L.Ed.2d 394 (1990).

II

The last state court to render a judgment on the Miranda claim as of 1978, the California Court of Appeal, expressly found a procedural default. When a state-law default prevents the state court from reaching the merits of a federal claim, that claim can ordinarily not be reviewed in federal court. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87-88, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 2506-2507, 53...

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5505 practice notes
  • McCarns v. Dexter, No. EDCV 05-1047-SGL(RC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • January 28, 2008
    ...claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground." Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 2594, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991); Castillo v. McFadden, 399 F.3d 993, 1001 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 818, 126 S.Ct. 348......
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    • August 13, 2002
    ...S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 (1989). The last explained state court judgment should be used to make this determination. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-05, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991). If the last state judgment is a silent or unexplained denial, it is presumed that the last......
  • Hays v. Farwell, No. 3:04-cv-0011-RLH-VPC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • March 22, 2007
    ...a state court decision is contrary to federal law, this Court looks to the state courts' last reasoned decision. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991); Shackleford v. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 1079 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 944......
  • Keenan v. Bagley, CASE NO. 1:01 CV 2139
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • April 24, 2012
    ...In determining whether the Maupin factors are met, the federal court looks to the last explained state court judgment. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 805 (1991); Combs v. Coyle, 205 F.3d 269, 275 (6th Cir. 2000). "'[A] procedural default does not bar consideration of a federal claim on h......
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5462 cases
  • McCarns v. Dexter, No. EDCV 05-1047-SGL(RC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • January 28, 2008
    ...claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground." Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 2594, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991); Castillo v. McFadden, 399 F.3d 993, 1001 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 818, 126 S.Ct. 348......
  • Pearl v. Cason, No. CIV.A.01-CV-73051-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • August 13, 2002
    ...S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 (1989). The last explained state court judgment should be used to make this determination. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-05, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991). If the last state judgment is a silent or unexplained denial, it is presumed that the last......
  • Hays v. Farwell, No. 3:04-cv-0011-RLH-VPC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • March 22, 2007
    ...a state court decision is contrary to federal law, this Court looks to the state courts' last reasoned decision. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04, 111 S.Ct. 2590, 115 L.Ed.2d 706 (1991); Shackleford v. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 1079 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 944......
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    • April 24, 2012
    ...In determining whether the Maupin factors are met, the federal court looks to the last explained state court judgment. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 805 (1991); Combs v. Coyle, 205 F.3d 269, 275 (6th Cir. 2000). "'[A] procedural default does not bar consideration of a federal claim on h......
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