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Habeas Corpus – procedural default — good cause

U.S. Supreme Court


Habeas Corpus – procedural default — good cause

Where a prisoner’s attorneys abandoned him without giving notice to the court as required by state law, he has good cause for a procedural default, and can bring a federal habeas corpus action.

Not only was Maples left without any functioning attorney of record; the very listing of Munanka, Ingen-Housz, and Butler as his representatives meant that he had no right personally to receive notice. He in fact received none within the 42 days allowed for commencing an appeal. Given no reason to suspect that he lacked counsel able and willing to represent him, Maples surely was blocked from complying with the State’s procedural rule.

“The cause and prejudice requirement shows due regard for States’ finality and comity interests while ensuring that ‘fundamental fairness [remains] the central concern of the writ of habeas corpus.’ ” Dretke v. Haley, 541 U. S. 386, 393. In the unusual circumstances of this case, agency law principles and fundamental fairness point to the same conclusion: there was indeed cause to excuse Maples’ procedural default. Through no fault of his own, he lacked the assistance of any authorized attorney during the 42-day appeal period. And he had no reason to suspect that, in reality, he had been reduced to pro se status.

586 F. 3d 879, reversed and remanded.

10-63 Maples v. Thomas

Ginsburg, J.; Alito, J., concurring; Scalia, J., dissenting.

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