Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 3 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 473 (2000)


AEDPA's present provisions, which incorporate earlier habeas corpus principles. Except for substituting the word "constitutional" for the word "federal," the present 2253 is a codification of the CPC standard announced in Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U. S. 880, 894. See Williams v. Taylor, ante, at 434. Under Barefoot, a substantial showing of the denial of a right includes showing that reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues presented were " 'adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.' " 463 U. S., at 893, and n. 4. Pp. 483-484.

(b) Determining whether a COA should issue where the petition was dismissed on procedural grounds has two components, one directed at the underlying constitutional claims and one directed at the district court's procedural holding. Section 2253 mandates that both showings be made before the court of appeals may entertain the appeal. Each component is part of a threshold inquiry, and a court may find that it can dispose of the application in a fair and prompt manner if it proceeds first to resolve the issue whose answer is more apparent from the record and arguments. Resolution of procedural issues first is allowed and encouraged by the rule that this Court will not pass upon a constitutional question if there is also present some other ground upon which the case may be disposed of. Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U. S. 288, 347. Here, Slack did not attempt to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, instead arguing only that the District Court's procedural rulings were wrong. This Court does not attempt to determine whether Slack could make the required showing of constitutional error, for the issue was neither briefed nor presented below because of the view that the CPC, rather than COA, standards applied. It will be necessary to consider the matter upon any remand for further proceedings. The Court does, however, address the second component of the 2253(c) inquiry, whether jurists of reason could conclude that the District Court's dismissal on procedural grounds was debatable or incorrect. Pp. 484-485.

3. A habeas petition which is filed after an initial petition was dismissed without adjudication on the merits for failure to exhaust state remedies is not a "second or successive" petition as that term is understood in the habeas corpus context. Pp. 485-490.

(a) The District Court erred in concluding to the contrary. Because the question whether Slack's pre-AEDPA, 1995 petition was second or successive implicates his right to relief in the trial court, preAEDPA law governs. See Lindh v. Murphy, supra. Whether the dismissal was appropriate is controlled by Rule 9(b) of the Rules Governing 2254, which incorporates the Court's prior decisions on the


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