CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SCOTUS Shows It Is Serious About One Year Filing Deadlines

Supreme_court_20_16From The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in Lawrence v Florida that a Florida death row prisoner lost an opportunity to challenge his conviction in the federal court system because he missed a one-year filing deadline.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the state of Florida against inmate Gary Lawrence, who faces execution for murdering a man who had moved in with Lawrence's wife.

Under the federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, death row inmates have one year after a conviction becomes final in state courts to petition the federal system to review the case.

Lawrence's lawyers say they stopped the clock from running on the state's one-year time limit by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court. A majority of the court rejected that argument.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said the language of the law is clear and that the approach favored by lawyers for the death row inmate "would provide incentives for state prisoners to file ... as a delay tactic ... regardless of the merit of the claims asserted."

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said rejecting Lawrence's arguments is "neither a necessary nor a proper interpretation" of the law. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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