Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 11 (2000)

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

Opinion of the Court

III

As AEDPA applied, the Court of Appeals should have treated the notice of appeal as an application for a COA. Fed. Rule App. Proc. 22(b); Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(f); see also Hohn, supra, at 240. To evaluate whether the Court of Appeals should have granted a COA, we must determine what the habeas applicant must show to satisfy the requirements of 2253(c).

Citing 2253(c)'s requirement that a COA may issue only upon the "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right," the State contends that no appeal can be taken if the District Court relies on procedural grounds to dismiss the petition. According to the State, only constitutional rulings may be appealed. Under this view, a state prisoner who can demonstrate he was convicted in violation of the Constitution and who can demonstrate that the district court was wrong to dismiss the petition on procedural grounds would be denied relief. We reject this interpretation. The writ of habeas corpus plays a vital role in protecting constitutional rights. In setting forth the preconditions for issuance of a COA under 2253(c), Congress expressed no intention to allow trial court procedural error to bar vindication of substantial constitutional rights on appeal.

Our conclusion follows from AEDPA's present provisions, which incorporate earlier habeas corpus principles. Under AEDPA, a COA may not issue unless "the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U. S. C. 2253(c) (1994 ed., Supp. III). Except for substituting the word "constitutional" for the word "federal," 2253 is a codification of the CPC standard announced in Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U. S., at 894. Congress had before it the meaning Barefoot had given to the words it selected; and we give the language found in 2253(c) the meaning ascribed it in Barefoot, with due note for the substitution of the word "constitutional." See Williams v. Taylor, ante, at 434. To obtain a COA under 2253(c), a habeas prisoner

483

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