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Maples and Martinez Arguments

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Transcripts are available for the oral arguments in Maples v. Thomas and Martinez v. Ryan.

In the Maples argument, both attorneys took a lot of flak, and the argument bogged down in the peculiar facts of the case.  There were a lot of "I don't know" type responses.  The reason for the sparse record on these questions is that Maples's claim morphed on its journey to the Supreme Court, so a lot of questions about whether he was "abandoned" by his attorneys did not get answered in the District Court.  Hard to predict how the case will come out.  A remand for more fact-finding is a possibility.  But I expect it will set a relatively narrow precedent.

In Martinez, I think it is more clear that counsel for petitioner will not get the rule he wants.  He argues for a broad extension of the Douglas v. California right to counsel on the first appeal to cover claims on collateral review that could not have been brought earlier.  The corollary is that when counsel is constitutionally required, ineffectiveness of that counsel is cause for a procedural default of a claim, allowing it to be raised in federal habeas.

At page 17, Justice Kennedy asks, "Can I leave this argument with the judgment that you have offered me no limiting principle on how many proceedings there must be ... before there's an end to the argument that previous counsel were inadequate?"  Not a good sign for the defense side.

Earlier, at page 11, Justice Sotomayor asks about "a huge reliance interest that has developed since Finley and its progeny...."  See CJLF Brief at 20.

[Some of Justice Ginsburg's questions, as transcribed, don't make sense.  I suspect she was speaking softly and the stenographer had trouble understanding her.]

I expect the Finley rule, that there is no right to counsel in collateral review, will survive.

In a pre-argument post at SL&P Doug Berman noted, "The Maples case seems likely to generate the most media attention, in large part because it is a capital case.  But I think the Martinez case in the most important and potentially the most consequential of this trio."  The first statement was correct.  I think the second is also.

5 Comments

"The reason for the sparse record on these questions is that Maples's claim morphed on its journey to the Supreme Court, so a lot of questions about whether he was "abandoned" by his attorneys did not get answered in the District Court."

Maybe, then, they should DIG it. Why should Maples get a second bite at the apple?

There were a lot of surreal moments in that oral argument--one of which was the well, a notice was sent to Maples directly, so the state knew he was abandoned line of questioning. The other was the unseemly suggestion that Alabama (as a litigant) should have simply waived compliance with the rule.

How the mailroom mixup became "abandonment" is simply beyond me. As Ginsburg noted, the two S & C lawyers weren't completely on their own. And there is nothing to suggest that the partner was anything more than neglectful.

What is irritating too--let's say that the S & C mailroom employees HAD sent the stuff to De Leeuw--does anyone think that De Leeuw would NOT have filed the appeal? So, how is it even possible to find abandonment, rather than a simple mix-up?

Sorry for the serial comments. Something about this case really torques me. To me the issue really isn't whether the screwup was caused by Maples--the issue is what rule of law is out there that says that Alabama courts should have allowed the late appeal. And I can find none. There's no right to effective rep since this isn't a trial. There's no due process violation (the caselaw is crystal clear that notice isn't even required once proceedings have been initiated). The abandonment argument is tortured--he had local counsel, he had De Leeuw who would have jumped all over this had he known about the trial court's decision, which makes this negligence, not abandonment. And the S & C associates, while not completely blameless, certainly expected that De Leeuw was going to take over. (Take a look at Ginsburg's comment about them not doing this on their own.)

So we're going to ignore all of that--for what, the benefit of a capital murderer where there are no questions of innocence? This isn't rule of law, it's rule of squeamishness. If the Court wants to say, look, we're going to forgive deadlines etc., fine, then come out and say it.

And one more for the road. At the end of oral argument, Garre makes a technical argument for abandonment--attorney of record doesn't tell the court blah blah blah. But whether or not someone was abandoned by the attorney really isn't a technical matter--it's outrageous behavior. Nothing here is outrageous in the sense that people deliberately left Maples hang out to dry. The local attorney thought the S & C people were going to handle it. The S & C associates thought that the partner was going to handle it. And the partner didn't deliberately drop the ball. It's bad, no doubt about that, but it's not the kind of studied indifference or affirmative acts to abandon that seem to be necessary. In other words, it's not outrageous--these were honest mistakes, and the law seemed heretofore clear that honest mistakes were chargeable to the client.

Maples was represented by S & C, and it was S & C who assigned the associates to work the case for the ultimate PR benefit to S & C, who could tout their pro bono work in hopes of generating more revenue from clients who admire those who fight for the pitiful but noble criminal. Maples local counsel, the prosecutor, the trial court, and especially the clerk of court were entitled to believe this reality and assume S & C still had the case even though the assigned associates moved on, as is the norm in big firms like S & C. If a majority of the Supremes decide the government is at fault in all of this, then, as noted by federalist, the rule is one of squeamishness. A whole lot of litigation time could be saved "If the Court wants to say, look, we're going to forgive deadlines etc., fine, then come out and say it."

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