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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Louisiana Court of Appeals Trashed 2,500 Habeas Patitions

A 2007 suicide note by a clerk of the Louisiana Court of Appeals who killed himself at the courthouse revealed that 2500 prisoner petitions had been summarily rejected over a period of 13 years without having been read.  According to a reporter, "Although every criminal writ application is supposed to be reviewed by three judges, he was deputed to winnow out any that had been filed pro se and arrange for their automatic rejection."  The Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that the petitions be considered by judges not involved in the improper rejection. (Opinion here) However, some, including Supreme Court Justice Weimer, objected to allowing judges from the same circuit decide the petitions, because all of the judges knew about the improper practices for at least several onths before taking any steps to remedy it.  In addition, it is not clear that all of the judges cooperated fully with the police investigation of the suicide. According to the Times-Picayune, "In one investigative report, a detective wrote that Chief Judge Edward Dufresne Jr. was being evasive when asked some questions about problems with [the clerk's] employment, and withheld a suicide note from police for several hours after Peterson's death, until after officers had left the building."  [Jack Chin]  Thanks to Ted Schneyer for the tip.

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