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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 134643 Find in a Library
Title: Great Writ in Action: Empirical Light on the Federal Habeas Corpus Debate
Journal: New York University Review of Law and Social Change  Volume:18  Issue:3  Dated:(1990-1991)  Pages:637-710
Author(s): R Faust; T J Rubenstein; L W Yackle
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 64
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study collected reliable data on a range of matters dealing with the conduct of Federal habeas corpus for State prisoners.
Abstract: The data were drawn from actual cases handled by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York during two, 3-year periods. The study examined various issues including the exhaustion doctrine, the timing of Federal petitions, second or successive petitions from the same prisoner, participation of counsel in Federal court, and the effect given to procedural default in State court. The findings show that, while petitioners do try to exhaust State remedies before seeking Federal habeas corpus relief, their efforts are usually unsuccessful; the dismissal on exhaustion doctrine grounds is nearly 50 percent. Three proposals for altering the exhaustion doctrine are outlined: the Reagan/Bush proposal, the Thurmond/Specter plan, and the Powell Commission recommendations. The data concerning timing of Federal petitions reveals that most prisoners file their Federal habeas corpus petitions within 5 years of their conviction. Repetitive habeas corpus litigation is not the quantitative problem that habeas critics often suppose. In fact, the rates of successive filing and arguments are declining. The data show that the availability of professional representation is the most important predictor of success in Federal habeas corpus cases. Finally, the analysis demonstrates that the shift from the waiver standard to the forfeiture standard has resulted in a significant increase in the incidence of default arguments by prosecutors and the rate of default dismissals. The authors maintain that Federal courts are largely closed to constitutional claims irrespective of the merits; proposals advocating further rigidity in the procedural default doctrine would foreclose even more petitions. 233 notes
Main Term(s): Habeas corpus
Index Term(s): District Courts; New York
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