Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 15 (2000)

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Opinion of Stevens, J.

"(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim—

"(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States . . . ."

In this case, the Court of Appeals applied the construction of the amendment that it had adopted in its earlier opinion in Green v. French, 143 F. 3d 865 (CA4 1998). It read the amendment as prohibiting federal courts from issuing the writ unless:

"(a) the state court decision is in 'square conflict' with Supreme Court precedent that is controlling as to law and fact or (b) if no such controlling decision exists, 'the state court's resolution of a question of pure law rests upon an objectively unreasonable derivation of legal principles from the relevant [S]upreme [C]ourt precedents, or if its decision rests upon an objectively unreasonable application of established principles to new facts,' " 163 F. 3d, at 865 (quoting Green, 143 F. 3d, at 870).

Accordingly, it held that a federal court may issue habeas relief only if " 'the state courts have decided the question by interpreting or applying the relevant precedent in a manner that reasonable jurists would all agree is unreasonable,' " 163 F. 3d, at 865.8

8 The warden's view is narrower. He argues that 28 U. S. C. 2254(d)(1) (1994 ed., Supp. III) establishes a new general rule that prohibits federal courts from granting habeas corpus relief on the basis of any claim that a state court has adjudicated on the merits, and that 2254(d)(1) merely identifies two narrow exceptions to the general rule—when a state court has issued a decision "contrary to" or an "unreasonable application of"

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