McCleskey v. Zant: A Stricter Standard of Review for Abuse of the Writ of Habeas Corpus Involving Successive Federal Petitions

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Hall, Thomas S.
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INTRODUCTION|The United States Supreme Court moved closer to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's goal of streamlining the federal review process with its McCleskey v. Zant decision. In McCleskey, the Court established a tougher standard of review for abuse of the writ of habeas corpus, making it more difficult for inmates to obtain relief when raising new claims in subsequent federal habeas petitions. The decision limits most federal reviews of state criminal convictions to one trip through the habeas system. This Note focuses on the impact of the McCleskey decision on the federal post-conviction review process-specifically examining the history of the doctrine of abuse of the writ of habeas corpus and the legal standard used to determine whether the inmate abused the writ by filing a successive federal petition that raises a new claim. These issues touch upon a broader spectrum of controversial subjects that are beyond the scope of this Note, such as the history of the writ itself, and an analysis of the 1991 Crime Control Act Habeas Corpus Reform provisions. This Note discusses the McCleskey decision-both Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and Justice Marshall's dissent. This Note then reviews the case law and statutory formulations of the abuse of writ doctrine, and the lineage of the procedural default case law leading up to the incorporation of this doctrine into abuse of writ jurisprudence in McCleskey. The McCleskey decision addressed a split in the circuits regarding the question of the proper standard to apply in determining abuse of the writ. The political context in which the decision was made is also discussed...
25 Creighton L. Rev. 233 (1991-1992)
Creighton University School of Law
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