Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362, 28 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 362 (2002)

Kennedy, J., dissenting

state rule "force[s] resort to an arid ritual of meaningless form." Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 U. S. 313, 320 (1958). Staub's formulation was imprecise, but the cases that followed clarified the two essential components of the adequate state ground inquiry: First, the defendant must have notice of the rule; and second, the State must have a legitimate interest in its enforcement.

The Court need not determine whether the requirement of Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.09 that all continuance motions be made in writing would withstand scrutiny under the second part of this test (or, for that matter, whether Lee had cause not to comply with it, cf. infra, at 405). Even if it could be assumed, for the sake of argument, that Rule 24.09 would not afford defendants a fair opportunity to raise a federal claim, the same cannot be said of Rule 24.10. The latter Rule simply requires a party requesting a continuance on account of missing witnesses to explain why it is needed, and the Rule serves an undoubted and important state interest in facilitating the orderly management of trials. Other States have similar requirements. See, e. g., Ind. Code 35- 36-7-1(b) (1993); La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 709 (West 1981); Miss. Code Ann. 99-15-29 (1972); Okla. Stat., Tit. 12, 668 (1993); S. C. Rule Crim. Proc. 7(b) (1990); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 29.06 (Vernon 1965); Vt. Rule Crim. Proc. 50(c)(1) (1983); Wash. Rev. Code 10.46.080 (1990). The Court's explicit deprecation of Rule 24.10—and implicit deprecation of its many counterparts—is inconsistent with the respect due to state courts and state proceedings.


The initial step of the adequacy inquiry considers whether the State has put litigants on notice of the rule. The Court will disregard state procedures not firmly established and regularly followed. In James v. Kentucky, 466 U. S. 341, 346 (1984), for example, the rule was "not always clear or closely hewn to"; in NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson,


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