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The Ninth Circuit, at It for Sport?


The Supreme Court today reversed the Ninth Circuit in yet another habeas case.  I shall simply repeat the Heritage Foundation report on the case without comment, except for drawing attention to the last two lines of the editor's note:

 FELKNER v. JACKSON, No. 10-797

 In a per curiam opinion, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in this habeas case stemming from a BATSON challenge in a state criminal trial. Respondent was convicted of numerous sexual offenses stemming from his attack on a 72-year-old woman. On appeal, Jackson raised a BATSON claim, asserting that the prosecutor exercised peremptory challenges to exclude two of three potential black jurors. The prosecutor offered race-neutral explanations in excusing the two jurors. The California Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's denial of the BATSON motion, and affirmed his conviction, and the California Supreme Court denied a petition for review. The federal district court, relying on AEDPA, held that the state court findings were not unreasonable. The Ninth Circuit reversed in a three-paragraph unpublished memorandum. In reversing that opinion, the Supreme Court noted AEDPA's requirement of deference to state court rulings, and that the opinion "did not discuss any specific facts or mention the reasoning of the other three courts," and merely "offered a one-sentence conclusory explanation for its decision." The Court found the Ninth Circuit's decision "inexplicable" and "unexplained," and held that the state appellate court's decision "was plainly not unreasonable." Furthermore, the Court found "simply no basis for the Ninth Circuit to reach the opposite conclusion, particularly in such a dismissive manner." [Ed. Note: Will the string of reversals of Ninth Circuit's obtuse habeas decisions, usually by a unanimous Court, have any effect? We are left to wonder if judges on the Ninth Circuit care or if this has become a sport to them.]


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