Stewart v. Smith, 536 U.S. 856 (2002) (per curiam)

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  Next





certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 01-339. Decided June 28, 2002

Respondent filed a federal habeas petition, claiming, inter alia, ineffective assistance of counsel. He had previously brought that claim in a state petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32, but the County Superior Court found it waived under Rule 32.2(a)(3) because he had not raised it in two previous Rule 32 petitions. The Federal District Court concluded that the state court's ruling barred federal habeas relief, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that the state procedural default was not independent of federal law and thus did not bar federal review. This Court granted certiorari and certified to the Arizona Supreme Court a question concerning Rule 32.2(a)(3)'s proper interpretation. The latter court responded that, at the time of respondent's state petition, the question whether an asserted claim was of sufficient constitutional magnitude to require a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver for purposes of the Rule depended not upon the merits of the particular claim but upon the particular right alleged to have been violated.

Held: The District Court properly refused to review respondent's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. The Arizona Supreme Court's reply makes clear that Rule 32.2(a)(3) only requires courts to categorize a claim, not to evaluate the claim's merits. When resolution of a state procedural law question depends on a federal constitutional ruling, the state-law prong of the court's holding is not independent of federal law and this Court's direct review jurisdiction is not precluded. Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U. S. 68, 75. Assuming that the same standard governs the scope of a district court's power to grant federal habeas relief, Rule 32.2(a)(3) determinations are independent of federal law because they do not depend upon a constitutional ruling on the merits. Although the state court's decision would not be independent of federal law if it rested primarily on a ruling on the merits, the record here reveals no such ruling.

241 F. 3d 1191, reversed and remanded.

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007