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Habeas Corpus – AEDPA — adjudication

U.S. Supreme Court


Habeas Corpus – AEDPA — adjudication

For purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), when a state court rules against a defendant in an opinion that rejects some of the defendant’s claims but does not expressly address a federal claim, a federal habeas court must presume, subject to rebuttal, that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits.

This conclusion follows logically from Harrington v. Richter, 562 U. S. ___. There, the Court held that when a state court issues an order that summarily rejects without discussion all the claims raised by a defendant, including a federal claim that the defendant subsequently presses in federal habeas, the federal habeas court must presume that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits. Though Richter concerned a state-court order that did not address any of the defendant’s claims, there is no sound reason not to apply its presumption when a state-court opinion addresses some but not all of those claims. Federal habeas courts should not assume that any unaddressed federal claim was simply overlooked because state courts do not uniformly discuss separately every claim referenced by a defendant. In fact, they frequently take a different course. They may view a line of state precedent as fully incorporating a related federal constitutional right, may not regard a fleeting reference to a provision of the Federal Constitution or federal precedent as sufficient to raise a federal claim, or may simply regard a claim as too insubstantial to merit discussion.

646 F. 3d 626, reversed and remanded.

11-465 Johnson v. Williams

Alito, J.; Scalia, J., concurring.

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