Cornell Law Review Volume 91 Issue 2

State Convicts and Federal Courts: Reopening the Habeas Corpus Debate

I know what you are thinking.  Of all the things that can conceivably happen in this field, the least likely (the very least likely) is that Congress will take a fresh look at federal habeas corpus for state prisoners.  It was only in 1996 that Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which ostensibly “reformed” the scheme by which prisoners employ federal habeas to challenge state criminal convictions or sentences.  Passing a bill of this magnitude is no small feat.  Once such legislation receives approval from both houses of Congress and the President, no one has any appetite to resume a political battle that, for good or ill, the enacted statute has resolved.  Realistically, the habeas law we currently have is the habeas law we are going to have for the foreseeable future.  Nevertheless, in this academic setting I have a certain warrant, even a responsibility, to set political realism aside.  This is what I mean to do.


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