Friday, November 11, 2011

State Court Deference Watch: Greene v. Fisher

Jason Mazzone

Greene v. Fisher, decided this week, is the Supreme Court's first signed opinion of the October 2011 Term. With the per curiam decisions in Cavazos v. Smith and Bobby v. Dixon, we now have three decisions favoring the authority of state courts.

Greene involved an issue of statutory interpretation. AEDPA prohibits federal courts from granting habeas relief to state prisoners on a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the state court decision was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of "clearly established federal law." The issue in Greene was whether "clearly established federal law" includes decisions of the Supreme Court announced after the last adjudication of the merits of the claim in state court but before the defendant’s conviction actually became final. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, joined by every other Justice, the Court held that only decisions as of the time of the state court adjudication count for purposes of determining whether habeas relief may be granted.

So far this Term, state courts are 3 for 3.

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