Lindh v. Murphy

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In Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,[1] did not apply retroactively to a convicted murderer who ciled a petition for habeas corpus in a noncapital cases that was already pending when the Act was passed.

Justice David Souter wrote the opinion for the 5-4 Court, with the majority including Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The conservative justices, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented based on their view that the Court's longstanding retroactivity jurisprudence required that the new version of 2254(d) applied to pending cases.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the dissent, in which he suggested a jurisdictional bar on allowing the petition in federal court:

There is a good argument that § 2254(d) is itself jurisdictional. See Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 460, 97 L. Ed. 469, 73 S. Ct. 397 (1953) ("Jurisdiction over applications for federal habeas corpus is controlled by statute"); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 547, n. 2, 66 L. Ed. 2d 722, 101 S. Ct. 764 (1981) "The present codification of the federal habeas statute is the successor to 'the first congressional grant of jurisdiction to the federal courts,' and the 1966 amendments embodied in § 2254(d) [now codified, as amended by the AEDPA, at § 2254(e)] were intended by Congress as limitations on the exercise of that jurisdiction" (quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 485, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439, 93 S. Ct. 1827 (1973)); cf. Arkansas v. Farm Credit Servs. of Central Ark., 520 U.S. , (1997) (slip op., at 4) (explaining that the Tax Injunction Act--which has operative language similar to § 2254(d) ("The district courts shall not enjoin . . . ")--is "first and foremost a vehicle to limit drastically federal district court jurisdiction to interfere with so important a local concern as the collection of taxes" (internal quotations omitted)). But even if it is not jurisdictional, it shares the most salient characteristic of jurisdictional statutes: its commands are addressed to courts rather than to individuals. Section 2254(d) does not address criminal defendants, or even state prosecutors; it prescribes or proscribes no private conduct. Instead, it is addressed directly to federal courts, providing, "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 . . . unless . . . " (emphasis added).


  1. 110 Stat. 1214, signed into law on April 24, 1996, enacted the present 28 U.S.C. A. § 2254(d) (Supp. 1997).