Refining the use of habeas corpus

Two professors of law Joseph L. Hoffmann and Nancy J. King, argue in “Justice, Too Much and Too Expensive” that there is a need to refine and restrict the use of habeas corpus as writ or petition. The idea I will admit was shocking enough to me, that it wasn’t until I came to the end of their piece that the reasoning became clear. The reasoning grows out of their belief that the main need for habeas corpus in American legal system (to enforce federal constitutional rights even within state criminal cases) is anachronistic because

today state judges no longer resist the idea that they are required to enforce federal constitutional rights in state criminal cases. Now prisoners in every state can file both an appeal and a post-conviction petition in state court, where alleged violations of federal rights can be reviewed and, if necessary, corrected. Habeas has thus fulfilled its mission: it helped facilitate the move to a criminal justice system in which the supremacy of federal law is unchallenged.”

They then claim that excessive and frivolous continued deployment of un-restricted habeas corpus claims are an unnecessary burden (in time and cost) on the federal courts system. Therefore, Hoffmann and King suggest Congress should seek to restrict and re-define the ability or parameters of the circumstances (too only capital cases for instance) in which a habeas corpus petition could be made.


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