MCQUIGGIN v. PERKINS
Floyd Perkins was convicted for the murder of Rodney Henderson in Michigan state court. The conviction became final on May 5, 1997 and under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), Perkins should have filed a writ of habeas corpus by May 5, 1998, but he did not file until July 13, 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Perkins claimed problems with the sufficiency of evidence, jury instruction, trial procedure, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel. The magistrate judge recommended dismissal of the petition as barred by the AEDPA statute of limitations. Perkins objected, arguing that the “new evidence” provision, which extends the statute of limitations to one year from when the “factual predicate of the claim could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence”, applied.
In support of his objection, Perkins produced three previously unpresented affidavits that alluded to his innocence. The affidavits were signed in 1997, 1999 and 2002, so the district court denied the writ, holding that the ADEPA statute of limitations extension expired in 2003, one year after the last affidavit was signed. Perkins then asked the court to extend the statute of limitations because he was actually innocent of the crime. The district court rejected this argument, holding that the “new” evidence was not the type needed to pursue an actual innocence claim, and even if it were, Perkins did not pursue his claims with reasonable diligence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that although the U.S. Supreme Court has held that tolling the statute of limitations requires parties to be reasonably diligent in pursuit of their claims, no court has analyzed whether actual innocence claims must be pursued in the same way.
1. Must an accused claiming actual innocence prove that extraordinary circumstances prevented the timely filing of his habeas petition?
2. If so, must an accused pursue an actual innocence claim with the same reasonable diligence required to toll the statute of limitations for other habeas petition claims?
Legal provision: Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
No, yes. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the 5-4 majority. The Court held that a credible showing of actual innocence allows a petitioner to pursue habeas corpus relief on the merits of the case regardless of any procedural bar, such as a statute of limitations. The miscarriage of justice exception that allows petitioners to pursue cases that would otherwise be dismissed as untimely demonstrates clear congressional intent to allow petitioners arguing actual innocence to do the same. The Court also held that, to prove the actual innocence claim, the petitioner must prove that it is more likely than not that a reasonable juror would not convict in light of the new evidence. Under this burden of proof, unexplained delay may impact the petitioner’s credibility but does not necessarily defeat the claim.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion in which he argued that Congress enacted a valid barrier to habeas corpus relief, and the majority’s opinion does not have the authority to overrule Congress. He argued that the Supreme Court does not have the legislative power to create an exception where one does not exist. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. joined in the dissent.
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
GREG McQUIGGIN, WARDEN, PETITIONER v. FLOYD PERKINS
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
[May 28, 2013]
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case concerns the “actual innocence” gateway to federal habeas review applied in Schlup v. Delo, 513 U. S. 298 (1995) , and further explained in House v. Bell, 547 U. S. 518 (2006) . In those cases, a convincing showing of actual innocence enabled habeas petitioners to overcome a procedural bar to consideration of the merits of their constitutional claims. Here, the question arises in the context of 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(1), the statute of limitations on federal habeas petitions prescribed in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Specifically, if the petitioner does not file her federal habeas petition, at the latest, within one year of “the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence,” §2244(d)(1)(D), can the time bar be overcome by a convincing showing that she committed no crime?
We hold that actual innocence, if proved, serves as a gateway through which a petitioner may pass whether the impediment is a procedural bar, as it was in Schlup and House, or, as in this case, expiration of the statute of limitations. We caution, however, that tenable actual-innocence gateway pleas are rare: “[A] petitioner does not meet the threshold requirement unless he persuades the district court that, in light of the new evidence, no juror, acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Schlup, 513 U. S., at 329; see House, 547 U. S., at 538 (emphasizing that the Schlup standard is “demanding” and seldom met). And in making an assessment of the kind Schlup envisioned, “the timing of the [petition]” is a factor bearing on the “reliability of th[e] evidence” purporting to show actual innocence. Schlup, 513 U. S., at 332.
In the instant case, the Sixth Circuit acknowledged that habeas petitioner Perkins (respondent here) had filed his petition after the statute of limitations ran out, and had “failed to diligently pursue his rights.” Order in No. 09–1875, (CA6, Feb. 24, 2010), p. 2 (Certificate of Appealability). Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the District Court denying Perkins’ petition, and held that Perkins’ actual-innocence claim allowed him to pursue his habeas petition as if it had been filed on time. 670 F. 3d 665, 670 (2012). The appeals court ap-parently considered a petitioner’s delay irrelevant to ap-praisal of an actual-innocence claim. See ibid.
We vacate the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remand the case. Our opinion clarifies that a federal habeas court, faced with an actual-innocence gateway claim, should count unjustifiable delay on a habeas petitioner’s part, not as an absolute barrier to relief, but as a factor in determining whether actual innocence has been reliably shown. See Brief for Respondent 45 (habeas court “could . . . hold the unjustified delay against the petitioner when making credibility findings as to whether the [actual-innocence] exception has been met”).I A
On March 4, 1993, respondent Floyd Perkins attended a party in Flint, Michigan, in the company of his friend, Rodney Henderson, and an acquaintance, Damarr Jones. The three men left the party together. Henderson was later discovered on a wooded trail, murdered by stab wounds to his head.
Perkins was charged with the murder of Henderson. At trial, Jones was the key witness for the prosecution. He testified that Perkins alone committed the murder while Jones looked on. App. 55.
Chauncey Vaughn, a friend of Perkins and Henderson, testified that, prior to the murder, Perkins had told him he would kill Henderson, id., at 39, and that Perkins later called Vaughn, confessing to his commission of the crime. Id., at 36–38. A third witness, Torriano Player, also a friend of both Perkins and Henderson, testified that Perkins told him, had he known how Player felt about Henderson, he would not have killed Henderson. Id., at 74.
Perkins, testifying in his own defense, offered a different account of the episode. He testified that he left Hender-son and Jones to purchase cigarettes at a convenience store. When he exited the store, Perkins related, Jones and Henderson were gone. Id., at 84. Perkins said that he then visited his girlfriend. Id., at 87. About an hour later, Perkins recalled, he saw Jones standing under a streetlight with blood on his pants, shoes, and plaid coat. Id., at 90.
The jury convicted Perkins of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on October 27, 1993. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Perkins’ conviction and sentence, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied Perkins leave to appeal on January 31, 1997. Perkins’ conviction became final on May 5, 1997.B
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 110Stat. 1214, a state prisoner ordinarily has one year to file a federal petition for habeas corpus, starting from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the ex-piration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(1)(A). If the petition alleges newly discovered evidence, however, the filing deadline is one year from “the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” §2244(d)(1)(D).
Perkins filed his federal habeas corpus petition on June 13, 2008, more than 11 years after his conviction became final. He alleged, inter alia, ineffective assistance on the part of his trial attorney, depriving him of his Sixth Amendment right to competent counsel. To overcome AEDPA’s time limitations, Perkins asserted newly discovered evidence of actual innocence. He relied on three affidavits, each pointing to Jones, not Perkins, as Henderson’s murderer.
The first affidavit, dated January 30, 1997, was submitted by Perkins’ sister, Ronda Hudson. Hudson stated that she had heard from a third party, Louis Ford, that Jones bragged about stabbing Henderson and had taken his clothes to the cleaners after the murder. App. to Pet. for Cert. 54a–55a. The second affidavit, dated March 16, 1999, was subscribed to by Demond Louis, Chauncey Vaughn’s younger brother. Louis stated that, on the night of the murder, Jones confessed to him that he had just killed Henderson. Louis also described the clothes Jones wore that night, bloodstained orange shoes and orange pants, and a colorful shirt. Id., at 50a–53a. The next day, Louis added, he accompanied Jones, first to a dumpster where Jones disposed of the bloodstained shoes, and then to the cleaners. Finally, Perkins presented the July 16, 2002 affidavit of Linda Fleming, an employee at Pro-Clean Cleaners in 1993. She stated that, on or about March 4, 1993, a man matching Jones’s description entered the shop and asked her whether bloodstains could be removed from the pants and a shirt he brought in. The pants were orange, she recalled, and heavily stained with blood, as was the multicolored shirt left for cleaning along with the pants. Id., at 48a–49a.
The District Court found the affidavits insufficient to entitle Perkins to habeas relief. Characterizing the affidavits as newly discovered evidence was “dubious,” the District Court observed, in light of what Perkins knew about the underlying facts at the time of trial. Id., at 29a. But even assuming qualification of the affidavits as evidence newly discovered, the District Court next explained, “[Perkins’] petition [was] untimely under §2244(d)(1)(D).” Ibid. “[If] the statute of limitations began to run as of the date of the latest of th[e] affidavits, July 16, 2002,” the District Court noted, then “absent tolling, [Perkins] had until July 16, 2003 in which to file his habeas petition.” Ibid. Perkins, however, did not file until nearly five years later, on June 13, 2008.
Under Sixth Circuit precedent, the District Court stated, “a habeas petitioner who demonstrates a credible claim of actual innocence based on new evidence may, in ex-ceptional circumstances, be entitled to equitable tolling of habeas limitations.” Id., at 30a. But Perkins had not established exceptional circumstances, the District Court determined. In any event, the District Court observed, equitable tolling requires diligence and Perkins “ha[d] failed utterly to demonstrate the necessary diligence in exercising his rights.” Id., at 31a. Alternatively, the Dis-trict Court found that Perkins had failed to meet the strict standard by which pleas of actual innocence are mea-sured: He had not shown that, taking account of all the evidence, “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him,” or even that the evidence was new. Id., at 30a–31a.
Perkins appealed the District Court’s judgment. Al-though recognizing that AEDPA’s statute of limitations had expired and that Perkins had not diligently pursued his rights, the Sixth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability limited to a single question: Is reasonable diligence a precondition to relying on actual innocence as a gateway to adjudication of a federal habeas petition on the merits? Certificate of Appealability 2–3.
On consideration of the certified question, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s judgment. Adhering to Circuit precedent, Souter v. Jones, 395 F. 3d 577, 597–602 (2005), the Sixth Circuit held that Perkins’ gateway actual-innocence allegations allowed him to present his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim as if it were filed on time. On remand, the Court of Appeals instructed, “the [D]istrict [C]ourt [should] fully consider whether Perkins assert[ed] a credible claim of actual innocence.” 670 F. 3d, at 676.
We granted certiorari to resolve a Circuit conflict on whether AEDPA’s statute of limitations can be overcome by a showing of actual innocence. 568 U. S. ___ (2012). Compare, e.g., San Martin v. McNeil, 633 F. 3d 1257, 1267–1268 (CA11 2011) (“A court . . . may consider an untimely §2254 petition if, by refusing to consider the petition for untimeliness, the court thereby would endorse a ‘fundamental miscarriage of justice’ because it would require that an individual who is actually innocent remain imprisoned.”), with, e.g., Escamilla v. Jungwirth, 426 F. 3d 868, 871–872 (CA7 2005) (“Prisoners claiming to be innocent, like those contending that other events spoil the conviction, must meet the statutory requirement of timely action.”). See also Rivas v. Fischer, 687 F. 3d 514, 548 (CA2 2012) (collecting cases).II A
In Holland v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___ (2010), this Court addressed the circumstances in which a federal habeas petitioner could invoke the doctrine of “equitable tolling.” Holland held that “a [habeas] petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if he shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 16–17) (internal quotation marks omitted). As the courts below comprehended, Perkins does not qualify for equitable tolling. In possession of all three affidavits by July 2002, he waited nearly six years to seek federal postconviction relief. “Such a delay falls far short of demonstrating the . . . diligence” required to entitle a petitioner to equitable tolling. App. to Pet. for Cert. 31a (District Court opinion). See also Certificate of Appealability 2.
Perkins, however, asserts not an excuse for filing after the statute of limitations has run. Instead, he maintains that a plea of actual innocence can overcome AEDPA’s one-year statute of limitations. He thus seeks an equi-table exception to §2244(d)(1), not an extension of the time statutorily prescribed. See Rivas, 687 F. 3d, at 547, n. 42 (distinguishing from “equitable tolling” a plea to override the statute of limitations when actual innocence is shown).
Decisions of this Court support Perkins’ view of the significance of a convincing actual-innocence claim. We have not resolved whether a prisoner may be entitled to habeas relief based on a freestanding claim of actual innocence. Herrera v. Collins, 506 U. S. 390 –405 (1993). We have recognized, however, that a prisoner “otherwise subject to defenses of abusive or successive use of the writ [of habeas corpus] may have his federal constitutional claim considered on the merits if he makes a proper showing of actual innocence.” Id., at 404 (citing Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U. S. 333 (1992) ). See also Murray v. Carrier, 477 U. S. 478, 496 (1986) (“[W]e think that in an extraordinary case, where a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent, a federal habeas court may grant the writ even in the absence of a showing of cause for the procedural default.”). In other words, a credible showing of actual innocence may allow a prisoner to pursue his constitu-tional claims (here, ineffective assistance of counsel) on the merits notwithstanding the existence of a procedural bar to relief. “This rule, or fundamental miscarriage of justice exception, is grounded in the ‘equitable discretion’ of habeas courts to see that federal constitutional errors do not result in the incarceration of innocent persons.” Herrera, 506 U. S., at 404.
We have applied the miscarriage of justice exception to overcome various procedural defaults. These include “successive” petitions asserting previously rejected claims, see Kuhlmann v. Wilson, 477 U. S. 436, 454 (1986) (plurality opinion), “abusive” petitions asserting in a second petition claims that could have been raised in a first petition, see McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U. S. 467 –495 (1991), failure to develop facts in state court, see Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U. S. 1 –12 (1992), and failure to observe state procedural rules, including filing deadlines, see Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U. S. 722, 750 (1991) ; Carrier, 477 U. S., at 495–496.
The miscarriage of justice exception, our decisions bear out, survived AEDPA’s passage. In Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U. S. 538 (1998) , we applied the exception to hold that a federal court may, consistent with AEDPA, recall its mandate in order to revisit the merits of a decision. Id., at 558 (“The miscarriage of justice standard is altogether consistent . . . with AEDPA’s central concern that the merits of concluded criminal proceedings not be revisited in the absence of a strong showing of actual innocence.”). In Bousley v. United States, 523 U. S. 614, 622 (1998) , we held, in the context of §2255, that actual in-nocence may overcome a prisoner’s failure to raise a constitutional objection on direct review. Most recently, in House, we reiterated that a prisoner’s proof of actual innocence may provide a gateway for federal habeas review of a procedurally defaulted claim of constitutional error. 547 U. S., at 537–538.
These decisions “see[k] to balance the societal interests in finality, comity, and conservation of scarce judicial re-sources with the individual interest in justice that arises in the extraordinary case.” Schlup, 513 U. S., at 324. Sensitivity to the injustice of incarcerating an innocent individual should not abate when the impediment is AEDPA’s statute of limitations.
As just noted, see supra, at 8, we have held that the miscarriage of justice exception applies to state procedural rules, including filing deadlines. Coleman, 501 U. S., at 750. A federal court may invoke the miscarriage of justice exception to justify consideration of claims defaulted in state court under state timeliness rules. See ibid. The State’s reading of AEDPA’s time prescription would thus accord greater force to a federal deadline than to a simi-larly designed state deadline. It would be passing strange to interpret a statute seeking to promote federalism and comity as requiring stricter enforcement of federal procedural rules than procedural rules established and enforced by the States.B
The State ties to §2244(d)’s text its insistence that AEDPA’s statute of limitations precludes courts from considering late-filed actual-innocence gateway claims. “Section 2244(d)(1)(D),” the State contends, “forecloses any argument that a habeas petitioner has unlimited time to present new evidence in support of a constitutional claim.” Brief for Petitioner 17. That is so, the State maintains, because AEDPA prescribes a comprehensive system for determining when its one-year limitations period begins to run. “Included within that system,” the State observes, “is a specific trigger for the precise circumstance presented here: a constitutional claim based on new evidence.” Ibid. Section 2244(d)(1)(D) runs the clock from “the date on which the factual predicate of the claim . . . could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” In light of that provision, the State urges, “there is no need for the courts to act in equity to provide additional time for persons who allege actual innocence as a gateway to their claims of constitutional error.” Ibid. Perkins’ request for an equitable exception to the statute of limitations, the State charges, would “rende[r] superfluous this carefully scripted scheme.” Id., at 18.
The State’s argument in this regard bears blinders. AEDPA’s time limitations apply to the typical case in which no allegation of actual innocence is made. The miscarriage of justice exception, we underscore, applies to a severely confined category: cases in which new evidence shows “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted [the petitioner].” Schlup, 513 U. S., at 329 (internal quotation marks omitted). Section 2244(d)(1)(D) is both modestly more stringent (because it requires diligence) and dramatically less stringent (because it requires no showing of innocence). Many petitions that could not pass through the actual-innocence gateway will be timely or not measured by §2244(d)(1)(D)’s triggering provision. That provision, in short, will hardly be rendered superfluous by recognition of the miscarriage of justice exception.
The State further relies on provisions of AEDPA other than §2244(d)(1)(D), namely, §§2244(b)(2)(B) and 2254(e) (2), to urge that Congress knew how to incorporate the miscarriage of justice exception when it was so minded. Section 2244(b)(2)(B), the State observes, provides that a petitioner whose first federal habeas petition has already been adjudicated when new evidence comes to light may file a second-or-successive petition when, and only when, the facts underlying the new claim would “es-tablish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.” §2244(b)(2)(B)(ii). And §2254(e)(2), which generally bars evidentiary hearings in federal habeas proceedings ini-tiated by state prisoners, includes an exception for pris-oners who present new evidence of their innocence. See §§2254(e)(2)(A)(ii), (B) (permitting evidentiary hearings in federal court if “the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense”).
But Congress did not simply incorporate the miscarriage of justice exception into §§2244(b)(2)(B) and 2254(e)(2). Rather, Congress constrained the application of the exception. Prior to AEDPA’s enactment, a court could grant relief on a second-or-successive petition, then known as an “abusive” petition, if the petitioner could show that “a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result from a failure to entertain the claim.” McCleskey, 499 U. S., at 495. Section 2244(b)(2)(B) limits the exception to cases in which “the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence,” and the petitioner can establish that no reasonable factfinder “would have found [her] guilty of the underlying offense” by “clear and convincing evidence.” Congress thus required second-or-successive habeas petitioners attempting to benefit from the miscarriage of justice exception to meet a higher level of proof (“clear and convincing evidence”) and to satisfy a diligence requirement that did not exist prior to AEDPA’s passage.
Likewise, petitioners asserting actual innocence pre-AEDPA could obtain evidentiary hearings in federal court even if they failed to develop facts in state court. See Keeney, 504 U. S., at 12 (“A habeas petitioner’s failure to develop a claim in state-court proceedings will be excused and a hearing mandated if he can show that a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result from failure to hold a federal evidentiary hearing.”). Under AEDPA, a petitioner seeking an evidentiary hearing must show diligence and, in addition, establish her actual innocence by clear and convincing evidence. §§2254(e)(2)(A)(ii), (B).
Sections 2244(b)(2)(B) and 2254(e)(2) thus reflect Congress’ will to modify the miscarriage of justice exception with respect to second-or-successive petitions and the hold-ing of evidentiary hearings in federal court. These pro-visions do not demonstrate Congress’ intent to preclude courts from applying the exception, unmodified, to “the type of petition at issue here”—an untimely first federal habeas petition alleging a gateway actual-innocence claim. House, 547 U. S., at 539. 1 The more rational inference to draw from Congress’ incorporation of a modified version of the miscarriage of justice exception in §§2244(b)(2)(B) and 2254(e)(2) is simply this: In a case not governed by those provisions, i.e., a first petition for federal habeas relief, the miscarriage of justice exception survived AEDPA’s passage intact and unrestricted. 2
Our reading of the statute is supported by the Court’s opinion in Holland. “[E]quitable principles have traditionally governed the substantive law of habeas corpus,” Holland reminded, and affirmed that “we will not construe a statute to displace courts’ traditional equitable authority absent the clearest command.” 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 13) (internal quotation marks omitted). The text of §2244(d)(1) contains no clear command countering the courts’ equitable authority to invoke the miscarriage of justice exception to overcome expiration of the statute of limitations governing a first federal habeas petition. As we observed in Holland,
“AEDPA seeks to eliminate delays in the federal habeas review process. But AEDPA seeks to do so without undermining basic habeas corpus principles and while seeking to harmonize the new statute with prior law . . . . When Congress codified new rules governing this previously judicially managed area of law, it did so without losing sight of the fact that the writ of habeas corpus plays a vital role in protecting constitutional rights.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 16) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted). 3III
Having rejected the State’s argument that §2244(d) (1)(D) precludes a court from entertaining an untimely first federal habeas petition raising a convincing claim of actual innocence, we turn to the State’s further objection to the Sixth Circuit’s opinion. Even if a habeas petitioner asserting a credible claim of actual innocence may overcome AEDPA’s statute of limitations, the State argues, the Court of Appeals erred in finding that no threshold diligence requirement at all applies to Perkins’ petition.
While formally distinct from its argument that §2244(d)(1)(D)’s text forecloses a late-filed claim alleging actual innocence, the State’s contention makes scant sense. Section 2244(d)(1)(D) requires a habeas petitioner to file a claim within one year of the time in which new evidence “could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” It would be bizarre to hold that a habeas
petitioner who asserts a convincing claim of actual innocence may overcome the statutory time bar §2244(d)(1)(D) erects, yet simultaneously encounter a court-fashioned diligence barrier to pursuit of her petition. See 670 F. 3d, at 673 (“Requiring reasonable diligence effectively makes the concept of the actual innocence gateway redundant, since petitioners . . . seek [an equitable exception only] when they were not reasonably diligent in complying with §2244(d)(1)(D).”).
While we reject the State’s argument that habeas petitioners who assert convincing actual-innocence claims must prove diligence to cross a federal court’s threshold, we hold that the Sixth Circuit erred to the extent that it eliminated timing as a factor relevant in evaluating the reliability of a petitioner’s proof of innocence. To invoke the miscarriage of justice exception to AEDPA’s statute of limitations, we repeat, a petitioner “must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence.” Schlup, 513 U. S., at 327. Unexplained delay in presenting new evidence bears on the determination whether the petitioner has made the requisite showing. Perkins so acknowl-edges. See Brief for Respondent 52 (unjustified delay may figure in determining “whether a petitioner has made a sufficient showing of innocence”). As we stated in Schlup, “[a] court may consider how the timing of the submission and the likely credibility of [a petitioner’s] affiants bear on the probable reliability of . . . evidence [of actual innocence].” 513 U. S., at 332. See also House, 547 U. S., at 537.
Considering a petitioner’s diligence, not discretely, but as part of the assessment whether actual innocence has been convincingly shown, attends to the State’s concern that it will be prejudiced by a prisoner’s untoward delay in proffering new evidence. The State fears that a prisoner might “lie in wait and use stale evidence to collaterally
attack his conviction . . . when an elderly witness has died and cannot appear at a hearing to rebut new evidence.” Brief for Petitioner 25. The timing of such a petition, however, should seriously undermine the credibility of the actual-innocence claim. Moreover, the deceased witness’ prior testimony, which would have been subject to cross-examination, could be introduced in the event of a new trial. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 –54 (2004) (recognizing exception to the Confrontation Clause where witness is unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination). And frivolous petitions should occasion instant dismissal. See 28 U. S. C. §2254 Rule 4. Focusing on the merits of a petitioner’s actual-innocence claim and taking account of delay in that context, rather than treating timeliness as a threshold inquiry, is tuned to the rationale underlying the miscarriage of justice exception—i.e., ensuring “that federal constitutional errors do not result in the incarceration of innocent persons.” Herrera, 506 U. S., at 404. 4IV
We now return to the case at hand. The District Court proceeded properly in first determining that Perkins’ claim was filed well beyond AEDPA’s limitations period and that equitable tolling was unavailable to Perkins because he could demonstrate neither exceptional circumstances nor diligence. See supra, at 5. The District Court then found that Perkins’ alleged newly discovered evidence, i.e., the information contained in the three affidavits, was “substantially available to [Perkins] at trial.”
App. to Pet. for Cert. 31a. Moreover, the proffered evidence, even if “new,” was hardly adequate to show that, had it been presented at trial, no reasonable juror would have convicted Perkins. Id., at 30a–31a.
The Sixth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability limited to the question whether reasonable diligence is a precondition to reliance on actual innocence as a gateway to adjudication of a federal habeas petition on the merits. We have explained that untimeliness, although not an unyielding ground for dismissal of a petition, does bear on the credibility of evidence proffered to show actual innocence. On remand, the District Court’s appraisal of Perkins’ petition as insufficient to meet Schlup’s actual-innocence standard should be dispositive, absent cause, which we do not currently see, for the Sixth Circuit to upset that evaluation. We stress once again that the Schlup standard is demanding. The gateway should open only when a petition presents “evidence of innocence so strong that a court cannot have confidence in the outcome of the trial unless the court is also satisfied that the trial was free of nonharmless constitutional error.” 513 U. S., at 316.* * *
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Sixth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
1 In House, we rejected the analogous argument that AEDPA re-placed the standard for actual-innocence gateway claims prescribed in Schlup v. Delo, 513 U. S. 298, 327 (1995) (petitioner “must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new evidence”), with a “clear and convincing” evidence requirement. 547 U. S., at 539 (internal quotation marks omitted). As here, the State relied on §§2244(b)(2)(B)(ii) and 2254(e)(2) to support its argument. But “[n]either provision address[ed] the type of petition at issue . . . [,] a first federal habeas petition seeking consideration of defaulted claims based on a showing of actual innocence.” Ibid. Consequently, we held inapplicable to first petitions the stricter standard AEDPA prescribed for second-or-successive petitions. Ibid.
2 Prior to AEDPA, it is true, this Court had not ruled that a credible claim of actual innocence could supersede a federal statute of limitations. The reason why that is so is evident: Pre-AEDPA, petitions for federal habeas relief were not governed by any statute of limitations. Notably, we said in Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U. S. 722 (1991) , that a petitioner who failed to comply with a timeliness requirement in state court could nevertheless plead her claims on the merits in federal court if she could show that “failure to consider the claims [would] result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Id., at 750.
3 For eight pages, the dissent stridently insists that federal (although not state) statutes of limitations allow no exceptions not contained in the text. Well, not quite so, the dissent ultimately acknowledges. Post, at 8. Even AEDPA’s statute of limitations, the dissent admits, is subject to equitable tolling. But that is because equitable tolling “can be seen as a reasonable assumption of genuine legislative intent.” Post, at 9. Why is it not an equally reasonable assumption that Congress would want a limitations period to yield when what is at stake is a State’s incarceration of an individual for a crime, it has become clear, no reasonable person would find he committed? For all its bluster,the dissent agrees with the Court on a crucial point: Congress legis-lates against the backdrop of existing law. Post, at 10. At the timeof AEDPA’s enactment, multiple decisions of this Court applied the miscarriage of justice exception to overcome various threshold barriers to relief. See supra, at 7–9. It is hardly “unprecedented,” therefore, to conclude that “Congress intended or could have anticipated [a miscarriage of justice] exception” when it enacted AEDPA. Post, at 10–11.
4 We note one caveat: A showing that delay was part of a deliberate attempt to manipulate the case, say by waiting until a key prosecution witness died or was deported, might raise a different ground for withholding equitable relief. No such contention was presented here, however, so we do not discuss the point.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
GREG McQUIGGIN, WARDEN, PETITIONER v. FLOYD PERKINS
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
[May 28, 2013]
Justice Scalia, with whom The Chief Justice and Justice Thomas join, and with whom Justice Alito joins as to Parts I, II, and III, dissenting.
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) provides that a “1-year period of limitation shall apply” to a state prisoner’s application for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(1). The gaping hole in today’s opinion for the Court is its failure to answer the crucial question upon which all else depends: What is the source of the Court’s power to fashion what it concedes is an “exception” to this clear statutory command?
That question is unanswered because there is no answer. This Court has no such power, and not one of the cases cited by the opinion says otherwise. The Constitution vests legislative power only in Congress, which never enacted the exception the Court creates today. That inconvenient truth resolves this case.I A
“Actual innocence” has, until today, been an exception only to judge-made, prudential barriers to habeas relief, or as a means of channeling judges’ statutorily conferred discretion not to apply a procedural bar. Never before have we applied the exception to circumvent a categorical statutory bar to relief. We have not done so because we have no power to do so. Where Congress has erected a constitutionally valid barrier to habeas relief, a court cannot decline to give it effect.
Before AEDPA, the Supreme Court had developed an array of doctrines, see, e.g., Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U. S. 72, 87 (1977) (procedural default); McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U. S. 467, 489 (1991) (abuse of the writ), to limit the habeas practice that it had radically expanded in the early or mid-20th century to include review of the merits of conviction and not merely jurisdiction of the convicting court, see Stone v. Powell, 428 U. S. 465 –478 (1976) (citing Frank v. Mangum, 237 U. S. 309 (1915) ); Brown v. Allen, 344 U. S. 443 –534 (1953) (Jackson, J., concurring in result); Bator, Finality in Criminal Law and Federal Habeas Corpus for State Prisoners, 76 Harv. L. Rev. 441, 483–499 (1963). For example, the doctrine of procedural default holds that a state prisoner’s default of his federal claims “in state court pursuant to an independent and adequate state procedural rule” bars federal habeas review of those claims. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U. S. 722, 750 (1991) . That doctrine is not a statutory or jurisdictional command; rather, it is a “prudential” rule “grounded in ‘considerations of comity and concerns for the orderly administration of criminal justice.’ ” Dretke v. Haley, 541 U. S. 386 –393 (2004) (quoting Francis v. Henderson, 425 U. S. 536 –539 (1976)).
And what courts have created, courts can modify. One judge-made exception to procedural default allows a petitioner to proceed where he can demonstrate “cause” for the default and “prejudice.” See Coleman, supra, at 750. As relevant here, we have also expressed a willingness to excuse a petitioner’s default, even absent a showing of cause, “where a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent.” Murray v. Carrier, 477 U. S. 478, 496 (1986) ; see Schlup v. Delo, 513 U. S. 298 –327 (1995); House v. Bell, 547 U. S. 518 –537 (2006).
There is nothing inherently inappropriate (as opposed to merely unwise) about judge-created exceptions to judge-made barriers to relief. Procedural default, for example, raises “no question of a federal district court’s power to entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus.” Francis, supra, at 538. Where a petitioner would, but for a judge-made doctrine like procedural default, have a good habeas claim, it offends no command of Congress’s for a federal court to consider the petition. But that free-and-easy approach has no place where a statutory bar to habeas relief is at issue. “[T]he power to award the writ by any of the courts of the United States, must be given by written law,” Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75, 94 (1807) (Marshall, C. J.), and “judgments about the proper scope of the writ are ‘normally for Congress to make,’ ” Felker v. Turpin, 518 U. S. 651, 664 (1996) (quoting Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U. S. 314, 323 (1996) ). One would have thought it too obvious to mention that this Court is duty bound to enforce AEDPA, not amend it.B
Because we have no “equitable” power to discard statutory barriers to habeas relief, we cannot simply extend judge-made exceptions to judge-made barriers into the statutory realm. The Court’s insupportable leap from judge-made procedural bars to all procedural bars, including statutory bars, does all the work in its opinion—and there is not a whit of precedential support for it. McCleskey v. Zant applied a “miscarriage of justice” exception to the judge-made abuse-of-the-writ doctrine. 499 U. S., at 487–489, 495. Coleman v. Thompson and Murray v. Carrier applied it to the judge-made procedural-default doctrine. 501 U. S., at 750; 477 U. S., at 496. Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U. S. 1 (1992) , applied it to a variant of procedural default: a state prisoner’s failure adequately to develop material facts in state court. Id., at 8. Kuhlmann v. Wilson, 477 U. S. 436 (1986) , a plurality opinion, applied it to a statute that merely said lower federal courts “need not” entertain successive petitions, thus leaving them with “discretion to entertain successive petitions under some circumstances.” Id., at 449, 451 (emphasis added). Not one of the cases on which the Court relies today supports the extraordinary premise that courts can create out of whole cloth an exception to a statutory bar to relief.
The opinion for the Court also trots out post-AEDPA cases to prove the irrelevant point that “[t]he miscarriage of justice exception . . . survived AEDPA’s passage.” Ante, at 8. What it ignores, yet again, is that after AEDPA’s passage, as before, the exception applied only to nonstatutory obstacles to relief. Bousley v. United States and House v. Bell were applications of the judge-made doctrine of procedural default. See Bousley, 523 U. S. 614, 623 (1998) ; id., at 625 (Stevens, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (“I agree with the Court’s central holding . . . that none of its judge-made rules foreclose petitioner’s collateral attack . . .” (emphasis added)); id., at 630 (Scalia, J., dissenting); House, 547 U. S., at 522. Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U. S. 538 (1998) , a non-AEDPA case, involved the courts of appeals’ “inherent power to recall their mandates, subject to review for an abuse of discretion,” id., at 549; it stands only for the proposition that the miscarriage-of-justice exception is an appropriate “ ‘means of channeling’ ” that discretion, id., at 559 (quoting McCleskey, supra, at 496).
The Court’s opinion, in its way, acknowledges the dearth of precedential support for its holding. “Prior to AEDPA,” it concedes, “this Court had not ruled that a credible claim of actual innocence could supersede a federal statute of limitations.” Ante, at 13, n. 2. Its explanation for this lack of precedent is that before AEDPA, “petitions for federal habeas relief were not governed by any statute of limitations.” Ibid. That is true but utterly unprobative. There are many statutory bars to relief other than statutes of limitations, and we had never (and before today, have never) created an actual-innocence exception to any of them. The reason why is obvious: Judicially amending a validly enacted statute in this way is a flagrant breach of the separation of powers.II
The Court has no qualms about transgressing such a basic principle. It does not even attempt to cloak its act of judicial legislation in the pretense that it is merely construing the statute; indeed, it freely admits that its opinion recognizes an “exception” that the statute does not contain. Ante, at 7. And it dismisses, with a series of transparent non sequiturs, Michigan’s overwhelming textual argument that the statute provides no such exception and envisions none.
The key textual point is that two provisions of §2244, working in tandem, provide a comprehensive path to relief for an innocent prisoner who has newly discovered evidence that supports his constitutional claim. Section 2244(d)(1)(D) gives him a fresh year in which to file, starting on “the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence,” while §2244(b)(2)(B) lifts the bar on second or successive petitions. Congress clearly anticipated the scenario of a habeas petitioner with a credible innocence claim and addressed it by crafting an exception (and an exception, by the way, more restrictive than the one that pleases the Court today). One cannot assume that Congress left room for other, judge-made applications of the actual-innocence exception, any more than one would add another gear to a Swiss watch on the theory that the watchmaker surely would have included it if he had thought of it. In both cases, the intricate craftsmanship tells us that the designer arranged things just as he wanted them.
The Court’s feeble rejoinder is that its (judicially invented) version of the “actual innocence” exception applies only to a “severely confined category” of cases. Ante, at 10. Since cases qualifying for the actual-innocence exception will be rare, it explains, the statutory path for innocent petitioners will not “be rendered superfluous.” Ibid. That is no answer at all. That the Court’s exception would not entirely frustrate Congress’s design does not weaken the force of the State’s argument that Congress addressed the issue comprehensively and chose to exclude dilatory prisoners like respondent. By the Court’s logic, a statute banning littering could simply be deemed to contain an exception for cigarette butts; after all, the statute as thus amended would still cover something. That is not how a court respectful of the separation of powers should interpret statutes.
Even more bizarre is the Court’s concern that applying AEDPA’s statute of limitations without recognizing an atextual actual-innocence exception would “accord greater force to a federal deadline than to a similarly designed state deadline.” Ante, at 9; see also ante, at 13, n. 2. The Court terms that outcome “passing strange,” ante, at 9, but it is not strange at all. Only federal statutes of limitations bind federal habeas courts with the force of law; a state statute of limitations is given effect on federal habeas review only by virtue of the judge-made doctrine of procedural default. 1 See Coleman, 501 U. S., at 730–731. With its eye firmly fixed on something it likes—a shiny new exception to a statute unloved in the best circles—the Court overlooks this basic distinction, which would not trouble a second-year law student armed with a copy of Hart & Wechsler. The Court simply ignores basic legal principles where they pose an obstacle to its policy-driven, free-form improvisation.
The Court’s statutory-construction blooper reel does not end there. Congress’s express inclusion of innocence-based exceptions in two neighboring provisions of the Act confirms, one would think, that there is no actual-innocence exception to §2244(d)(1). Section 2244(b)(2)(B), as already noted, lifts the bar on claims presented in second or successive petitions where “the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through . . . due diligence” and “the facts underlying the claim . . . would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found” the petitioner guilty. Section 2254(e)(2) permits a district court to hold an evidentiary hearing where a diligent state prisoner’s claim relies on new facts that “would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found” him guilty. Ordinarily, we would draw from the express enumeration of these two actual-innocence exceptions the inference that no others were intended.
The Court’s twisting path to the contrary conclusion is not easy to follow, but I will try. In the Court’s view, the key fact here is that these two provisions of AEDPA codified what had previously been judge-made barriers to relief and applied to them a stricter actual-innocence standard than the courts had been applying. See ante, at 11–12. From this, the Court reasons that Congress made a conscious choice not also to apply the more restrictive actual-innocence standard to the statute of limitations. Ergo, the Court concludes, we are free to apply the more lenient version of the actual-innocence exception. Ante, at 12–13. That clever account ignores the background against which Congress legislated. Of course Congress did not “constrain” application of the actual-innocence exception to the statute of limitations. It felt no need to do so, because it had no reason whatsoever to suspect that any version of the exception would apply to the statute of limitations. The collective efforts of respondent and the majority have turned up not a single instance where this Court has applied the actual-innocence exception to any statutory barrier to habeas relief, much less to a statute of limitations. See Part I–B, supra. What has been said of equitable tolling applies in spades to non-tolling judicial inventions: “Congress cannot intend to incorporate, by silence, various forms of equitable tolling that were not generally recognized in the common law at the time of enactment.” Bain & Colella, Interpreting Federal Statutes of Limitations, 37 Creighton L. Rev. 493, 503 (2004). The only conceivable relevance of §§2244(b)(2)(B) and 2254(e)(2) is (1) as we have said, that no other actual-innocence exception was intended, and (2) that if Congress had anticipated that this Court would amend §2244(d)(1) to add an actual-innocence exception (which it surely did not), it would have desired the more stringent formulation and not the expansive formulation applied today, which it specifically rejected for those other provisions.III
Three years ago, in Holland v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___ (2010), we held that AEDPA’s statute of limitations is subject to equitable tolling. That holding offers no support for importing a novel actual-innocence exception. Equitable tolling—extending the deadline for a filing because of an event or circumstance that deprives the filer, through no fault of his own, of the full period accorded by the statute—seeks to vindicate what might be considered the genuine intent of the statute. By contrast, suspending the statute because of a separate policy that the court believes should trump it (“actual innocence”) is a blatant overruling. Moreover, the doctrine of equitable tolling is centuries old, and dates from a time when the separation of the legislative and judicial powers was incomplete. See, e.g., Bree v. Holbech, 2 Doug. 655, 656 (1781) (Mansfield, J.); South-Sea Co. v. Wymondsell, 24 E. R. 1004, 3 P. Wms. 143, 144 (1732); Booth v. Warrington, 2 E. R. 111, 112–113, 4 Bro. P. C. 163, 165–166 (1714); see also Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U. S. 392 –397 (1946); Exploration Co. v. United States, 247 U. S. 435 –447 (1918); Bailey v. Glover, 21 Wall. 342, 348 (1875); Sherwood v. Sutton, 21 F. Cas. 1303, 1304–1305 (No. 12,782) (CCNH 1828) (Story, J.); Jones v. Conoway, 4 Yeates 109 (Pa. 1804). As Professor Manning has explained, until the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Crown retained “pretensions to independent legislative authority, and English judges continued to serve as the Crown’s agents, in theory and practice a component of the executive. Given these conditions, which distinguish the old English from the American constitutional context, it is not surprising to find a similarly indistinct line between appropriate legislative and judicial functions in matters of interpretation.” Manning, Textualism and the Equity of the Statute, 101 Colum. L. Rev. 1, 36–37 (2001) (footnote omitted). Thus, the doctrine of the equity of the statute, of which equitable tolling was an example, was reflected in Blackstone’s Commentaries “two-thirds of the way through the eighteenth century.” Manning, supra, at 52.
American courts’ later adoption of the English equitable-tolling practice need not be regarded as a violation of the separation of powers, but can be seen as a reasonable assumption of genuine legislative intent. Colonial legislatures would have assumed that equitable tolling would attend any statute of limitations they adopted. In any case, equitable tolling surely represents such a reasonable assumption today. “It is hornbook law that limitations periods are customarily subject to equitable tolling, unless tolling would be inconsistent with the text of the relevant statute. Congress must be presumed to draft limitations periods in light of this background principle.” Young v. United States, 535 U. S. 43 –50 (2002) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see Manning, What Divides Textualists from Purposivists? 106 Colum. L. Rev. 70, 81–82, and n. 42 (2006). Congress, being well aware of the longstanding background presumption of equitable tolling, “may provide otherwise if it wishes to do so.” Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U. S. 89, 96 (1990) . The majority and dissenting opinions in Holland disputed whether that presumption had been overcome, but all agreed that the presumption existed and was a legitimate tool for construing statutes of limitations. See Holland, 560 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 13); id., at ___ (Scalia, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 1).
Here, by contrast, the Court has ambushed Congress with an utterly unprecedented (and thus unforeseeable) maneuver. Congressional silence, “while permitting an inference that Congress intended to apply ordinary background” principles, “cannot show that it intended to apply an unusual modification of those rules.” Meyer v. Holley, 537 U. S. 280, 286 (2003) . 2 Because there is no plausible basis for inferring that Congress intended or could have anticipated this exception, its adoption here amounts to a pure judicial override of the statute Congress enacted. “It is wrong for us to reshape” AEDPA “on the very lathe of judge-made habeas jurisprudence it was designed to repair.” Stewart v. Martinez-Villareal, 523 U. S. 637, 647 (1998) (Scalia, J., dissenting).* * *
“It would be marvellously inspiring to be able to boast that we have a criminal-justice system in which a claim of ‘actual innocence’ will always be heard, no matter how late it is brought forward, and no matter how much the failure to bring it forward at the proper time is the defendant’s own fault.” Bousley, 523 U. S., at 635 (Scalia, J., dissenting). I suspect it is this vision of perfect justice through abundant procedure that impels the Court today. Of course, “we do not have such a system, and no society unwilling to devote unlimited resources to repetitive criminal litigation ever could.” Ibid. Until today, a district court could dismiss an untimely petition without delving into the underlying facts. From now on, each time an untimely petitioner claims innocence—and how many prisoners asking to be let out of jail do not?—the district court will be obligated to expend limited judicial resources wading into the murky merits of the petitioner’s innocence claim. The Court notes “that tenable actual-innocence gateway pleas are rare.” Ante, at 2. That discouraging reality, intended as reassurance, is in truth “the condemnation of the procedure which has encouraged frivolous cases.” Brown, 344 U. S., at 537 (Jackson, J., concurring in result).
It has now been 60 years since Brown v. Allen, in which we struck the Faustian bargain that traded the simple elegance of the common-law writ of habeas corpus for federal-court power to probe the substantive merits of state-court convictions. Even after AEDPA’s pass through the Augean stables, no one in a position to observe the functioning of our byzantine federal-habeas system can believe it an efficient device for separating the truly deserving from the multitude of prisoners pressing false claims. “[F]loods of stale, frivolous and repetitious petitions inundate the docket of the lower courts and swell our own. . . . It must prejudice the occasional meritorious applicant to be buried in a flood of worthless ones.” Id., at 536–537.
The “inundation” that Justice Jackson lamented in 1953 “consisted of 541” federal habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. Friendly, Is Innocence Irrelevant? Collateral Attack on Criminal Judgments, 38 U. Chi. L. Rev. 142, 143 (1970). By 1969, that number had grown to 7,359. Ibid. In the year ending on September 30, 2012, 15,929 such petitions were filed. Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Judicial Business of the United States Courts 3 (Sept. 30, 2012) (Table C–2). Today’s decision piles yet more dead weight onto a postconviction habeas system already creaking at its rusted joints.
I respectfully dissent.
1 If the Court is really troubled by this disparity, there is a way to resolve it that is consistent with the separation of powers: Revise our judge-made procedural-default doctrine to give absolute preclusive effect to state statutes of limitations.
2 The Court concedes that “Congress legislates against the backdrop of existing law,” but protests that “[a]t the time of AEDPA’s enactment, multiple decisions of this Court applied the miscarriage of justice exception to overcome various threshold barriers to relief.” Ante, at 14, n. 3. That is right, of course, but only at an uninformative level of generality; the relevant inquiry is, to which barriers had we applied the exception? Whistling past the graveyard, the Court refuses to engage with this question.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JOHN J. BURSCH ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We'll hear argument first this morning in Case 12-126, McQuiggin v. Perkins.
John J. Bursch: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
We're not dealing here with the situation where a prisoner is trying to gather new evidence as to have a tolling rule.
That takes care of that problem.
We're also not dealing with anything that prevented Petitioner from filing, because that's the problem you sought in Holland.
What we have here is the question of when a petitioner must file his Federal habeas petition when he has the evidence and there are no barriers to filing.
And 2244(d)(1)(D) addresses that exact question.
It says, “ within 1 year ”.
Now, Mr. Perkins asks for a fairly dramatic expansion of Holland.
What he wants is equitable abrogation with no diligence, no fault or any other factor.
And our primary position is that you should simply apply the plain language of 2244(d)(1)(D).
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mr. Bursch, I thought that -- that Perkins -- didn't he say that -- that you could take into account -- I'm looking for the brief -- you could take into account delay as a factor in whether his actual-innocence gateway plea should be heard.
John J. Bursch: Well, he -- he does say that, and we read that as a concession that sometimes if you wait too long, that can actually trump a claim of actual innocence.
And so, at a minimum, our alternative position is that you have to act with diligence.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That -- that's not quite what he's saying.
We've had a miscarriage of justice exception for as long as there's been a habeas statute.
We've applied it repeatedly.
It's not that it trumps it, but that it puts into doubt the evidence you're claiming.
Proves your actual innocence.
It's not the sort of situation where as reasonable -- as due diligence will do, which is to override even an actually innocent person.
John J. Bursch: Well, we think it--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: What he says is it -- it really puts into question the validity of your claim.
John J. Bursch: --But, Justice Sotomayor, it -- it represents the same kind of principle, you've got to act quickly or adverse consequences can happen.
But what diligence does that his rule doesn't do is it recognizes this compelling, countervailing State interest in having notice and an opportunity to investigate evidence as soon as it's discovered.
Now -- and the problem here, we don't have any issue at all if it takes 10, 15, 100 years to find new evidence, but once you have that evidence, the burden is on him to come forward so that the State has the opportunity to investigate.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: It's -- it's a small point and doesn't go to the general issues you have to discuss with us, but just on the small point, he gets -- I forget exactly the detail -- he gets an affidavit that Jones did it within a year.
He has one.
John J. Bursch: Yes.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Now, if I were the prisoner, I'd say, you know, this one might not work.
Maybe I can get two.
And then he gets a second, which makes a certain amount of sense to me, although a substantial period of time elapses.
And the same thing happens with the third.
It makes sense to me that the prisoner might try to wait for the third.
How -- how does that factor into your diligence, assuming we get there?
John J. Bursch: Yes.
Justice Kennedy, there's a very simple solution to that problem.
If he gets close to the end of his year and he thinks that that next affidavit might be just around the corner but he doesn't have it yet, all he has to do is file a protective habeas petition with the district court, ask for a stay, and say I'm still diligently pursuing what I think is going to be another affidavit.
And if he can't find that next affidavit, you litigate it on the merits, and if he does, then he amends his petition and then you hear it.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: I'm not quite -- excuse me -- I'm not quite sure that wouldn't mean that you have a whole raft of -- of petition-protective decisions waiting on the shelf in the district court.
That -- that -- that causes its own congestion problems in the district court, it seems to me.
John J. Bursch: Two thoughts on that.
First, we already see this in the exhaustion area.
There are petitioners who are concerned that, notwithstanding statutory tolling for pursuing State remedies, that while they're monkeying around in State court, they might somehow be time-barred from bringing their Federal claim.
So, we see this all the time in the Sixth Circuit, you know, in Michigan in particular, that someone will file their petition and ask for a stay while they exhaust State remedies.
So, you know, that the pile really isn't going to be any different than it is right now.
But the key difference between that scenario and the scenario that Perkins proposes is that when you have him file something, the State's on notice they have an opportunity to investigate.
Now here, we have his last affidavit from the dry cleaning clerk, and it's 10 years old.
So even if Michigan could find that person, there's no way for us to meaningfully cross-examine her and investigate what she really knew or didn't know when she wrote that affidavit 10 years ago.
And so with the file and stay, you preserve all of the rights, but yet you get the State, the countervailing interest that the statute was meant to protect.
And I do want to--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What did -- what would it take to -- what would it take to show diligence?
And didn't he say that he tried to get a lawyer several times and was unsuccessful?
John J. Bursch: --Sure.
And that's a very practical question that I'd like to address.
Most of the habeas petitioners don't have lawyers, but filing the habeas petition itself is not something that takes great difficulty.
Every district court on their web site has a place where you click for forms.
In the Eastern District of Michigan, when you click that the very first two entries are habeas petitions for Federal prisoners and State prisoners.
And it's a relatively simple form, you check some boxes, say when your conviction was, and you write your claim.
And then every Federal district court in the country has full-time pro se staff attorneys who go through these pro se petitions, and if there is a legitimate claim there, then they can work that up for the judge if necessary and the State will respond.
Justice Samuel Alito: I have some difficulty understanding what the Sixth Circuit was doing.
And maybe you can help me with that.
The district court as I understand it said to the Petitioner: You lose for two reasons.
First, you don't really have evidence of actual innocence, not enough anyway; and second -- and I can understand that, because the evidence -- well, the most that is suggested by the affidavits is that Jones was a participant in this murder, not that Perkins was not responsible for the murder.
But anyway, so you lose for two reasons.
First, you don't really have evidence of actual innocence; second, you weren't diligent.
The Sixth Circuit grants a certificate of appealability only on the issue of diligence and they say diligence doesn't make any difference.
Well, where does that leave the petitioner?
He's already lost on the question of whether there's evidence of actual innocence and there was no appeal on that issue.
John J. Bursch: Well, we're very confused about that, too.
They do say in their opinion that the case is remanded to the district court to determine whether he's got evidence of actual innocence.
Now, as you just pointed out, Judge Bell in the district court already made that determination, so maybe they're contemplating an evidentiary hearing or some further investigation, but it is curious because--
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, that may be what they're contemplating, but they can't get to the issue of whether the district court adequately addressed the issue of adequate innocence -- of actual innocence unless that issue is before them.
And the issue isn't supposed to be before them unless -- isn't before them unless the certificate of appealability was issued, and there was no certificate of appealability on that issue.
John J. Bursch: --We agree with that 100 percent, so--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Was that -- was that argued to the -- to the Sixth Circuit?
Did you argue in the Sixth Circuit that, even assuming diligence, it wasn't enough here, and that's what the district court held?
John J. Bursch: --I believe that is the position of the State of Michigan, that because he confessed to his friends both before and after--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: That it was explicitly made to the Sixth Circuit?
John J. Bursch: --I believe that the Sixth Circuit argument did focus on the question of diligence.
But, you know, our opinion would be that even if this Court would use, you know, what we call equitable abrogation to kind of wipe away the 1-year limitations period, and you would also disagree on diligence, and we don't think you should do that, that you would still reverse because there's nothing left to be done in the district court.
This is not a case that rises to the very, very high threshold of proving actual innocence based on new evidence.
I would like to get back to the statutory language.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Where does that leave us?
John J. Bursch: I--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Let's assume--
John J. Bursch: --Well, that leaves you with a reversal in any of those three instances.
We think that you should address the circuit split, which is the important question of do we apply the limitations period.
And to turn to that, what I would like to do is set up an analytical construct.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --It's sort of an advisory opinion in your judgment.
John J. Bursch: Oh, no, it wouldn't be an advisory opinion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Sure, it would be, because you're telling us that there is no proof of actual innocence.
John J. Bursch: I'm saying that--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So why don't we just say that?
John J. Bursch: --I'm saying that's an alternative ground to get to the same place.
But the Sixth Circuit's holding was, consistent with some other circuits, that there is no statute of limitations here, that you can get by with equitable abrogation, as we call it.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: It might be its holding, but, as Justice Alito just proved, there's no basis for it because they didn't grant a COA on the substantive merits question.
John J. Bursch: Right.
I -- I think you're wholly within your right to address the merits question, and I would like to turn to that.
The analytical construct I want to set up is that we've got three different categories of prisoners who claim actual innocence based on new evidence.
In the first category, they used that new evidence only to try to establish innocence with no constitutional claim.
And in Herrera you say no Federal habeas remedy for that; you have to go back to the State courts, executive clemency, prosecutorial discharging of verdicts, and things like that.
The second category is where you have a prisoner who uses new evidence as a gateway.
It's not related to the constitutional claim that they assert -- the true Schlup gateway.
And that's not actually this case either and you could reserve that question, although I'm happy to talk about that.
The case we have here is the third instance, where the evidence of actual innocence, the new evidence, is the factual predicate for the claim.
And you could not find a provision more on all fours with that category than what Congress did in 2244(d)(1)(D).
And we know Congress was thinking about actual innocence in Schlup.
For those of you who are interested in the context, in the legislative debate in '95 and '96 before AEDPA's enactment we have Senators Feingold and Kennedy and Dodd, among others, talking about how this new statute is going to eliminate claims of actual innocence based on new evidence.
In fact, Senator Feingold even mentioned the Schlup decision.
And yet Congress adopts 2244(d)(1)(D) and all the rest of the provisions by a 91 to 8 vote.
So, Congress had this Court's decision in Schlup in the back of its mind, it considered this particular construct and it said no, we want a 1-year limitations period.
I do want to--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Your -- your -- your three-way classification, you began with Herrera?
John J. Bursch: --Correct.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: And -- and in a way, you're saying that you're three loops back in the Herrera a bit, because here the innocence is the factual predicate.
John J. Bursch: Right.
And in the Herrera case, there is no constitutional claim.
So there is no factual predicate.
It's just a stand-alone “ I'm innocent ” claim.
And this Court has said, appropriately so, that the Federal habeas remedy doesn't cover that.
You know, if you think about the remedies you can get from State courts, from prosecutors, from executive clemency, it's rather a big circle, and AEDPA is a much smaller circle that's subsumed in that.
And you recognize in Herrera that just because you don't fall within the habeas circle doesn't mean that you can't get relief.
In fact, if you look at the examples that the amici briefs cite on the Respondent's side, in almost every case the final decision is motivated by State action.
There's a governor who grants clemency in a couple of cases, there's a State attorney general's office that dismisses charges in others, county prosecutors who do the same.
One which the amicus brief characterizes as a habeas grant is actually the Illinois Court of Appeals in a State proceeding reversing.
You know, what the -- these are the best examples that they have for why you need an equitable abrogation rule and yet in the vast majority of those cases, it's the State system that's solving the problem.
Now, I do want to go back to what I think is -- is the trickiest question and that's, Justice Kennedy, the second category of prisoners, those who are using actual innocence to prove, not their underlying constitutional claim, but simply the Schlup gateway.
And I would respectfully submit that even there Congress has closed the door with 2244(d)(1)(D).
And the best way to understand that is by looking two subprovisions earlier in the second and successive petitions category.
And this argument that I'm going to make now is a little bit different than the way we did it in the brief, which was, you know, they had it there, they -- they don't have it here.
If you look at 2244--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Before you present the argument--
John J. Bursch: --Yes.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --you are saying that Congress overruled Schlup; is that what -- the point you're making?
John J. Bursch: The -- the contextual point that I was making was that Congress knew about Schlup, it was brought up in the debate that this was essentially changing the Schlup rule and allowing someone who claims actual innocence not to present their claim, and Congress swept those objections aside by a 91 to 8 vote.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: With respect to successive petitions.
John J. Bursch: No, they were talking in the -- the legislative record just generally about actual innocence and claims of miscarriage of justice.
So the textual argument that I want to present involving successive petitions is that when you're looking at 2244, you flow from successive petitions down to the statute of limitations.
What that means is that if you have a successive petition, Congress requires you to prove actual innocence and diligence, and you still have to prove that you satisfied the statute of limitations.
The Seventh Circuit recognized this in the Escamilla case.
So what that means is that, even when Congress had a situation where they knew that someone had presented evidence that would satisfy a heightened actual innocence standard, they still required that you satisfy the statute of limitations.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Where -- where -- where is that in the text?
What are you relying on in the text of 2244?
John J. Bursch: I'm relying on 2244(b), which is the successive petition provision.
It requires you to first prove that you've got evidence of actual innocence and then also demonstrate that you had diligence.
And after you're already gotten through what I'll call the actual innocence statutory gateway, you're still required to satisfy the statute of limitations.
If Congress was concerned about Schlup and wanted to make a situation where someone with evidence of actual innocence did not have to comply with the limitations period, they would have put an exception in the successive petition sub-provision and they didn't do that, so--
Justice Antonin Scalia: You -- you don't have 2244(b) in your brief, do you?
John J. Bursch: --Unfortunately, the text is not there, no.
Justice Antonin Scalia: That is unfortunate.
John J. Bursch: Yes.
Well, as we explained in the briefs, the fact--
Justice Antonin Scalia: If you're relying on it, I mean.
John J. Bursch: --Well, as we explained in the briefs, both parties rely on that.
The fact that you have an actual innocence exception only two sub-provisions earlier is strong reason to think Congress didn't intend it here.
But I'm making a different argument now, which is--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I'm sorry.
John J. Bursch: --Which is simply that Congress considered the -- the instance where you establish a statutory actual-innocence gateway in (b)(2), the successive petition, and still require that it be timely filed, because the State's interest in having notice and an opportunity to investigate is so important.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Are -- are you saying that this case is a fortiori from a successive petition, because this isn't a successive petition.
John J. Bursch: No, this is not.
What I'm using the successive petition provision to demonstrate is that, consistent with the legislative history, Congress is demonstrating here in 2244(d)(1)(D) that there is no special actual-innocence--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: You don't see a difference--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, you're saying that Congress knows how to write--
John J. Bursch: --Yes, I am--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: --an exception if they want it.
But this (B) does apply to successive petitions and this is really before that.
John J. Bursch: --Well, my -- my point is that if Congress anticipated that actual innocence could be a gateway to circumvent the limitations period, then certainly they would have put that exception in the successive petition of (b)(2) where they said, all right, if you establish actual innocence, we're still going to make you comply with the limitations period.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, now, your friend on the other side I think argues that that -- they put that in expressly because they limited what would be the otherwise applicable miscarriage of justice provision in the question that's before us now.
John J. Bursch: Right.
And if you would--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What is your -- what is your answer to that?
John J. Bursch: --If he was right about that, then in (B), you would also see another provision that says and anyone who satisfies this statutory actual-innocence standard doesn't have to apply with the limitations period.
And we think that -- that's dispositive.
Now, you know, when we--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --I'm sorry.
I don't understand.
I mean, there is a presumption that's been longstanding that at least with respect to the filing of your first petition, that it is a statute of limitations subject to exceptions, including the manifest injustice one.
If -- it would seem to me that if they intended not to have that apply, they would have done what they did with the successive petition, but they chose not to.
John J. Bursch: --Well, Justice Sotomayor, the history of this statute and of the case law isn't quite that way.
And -- and I want to draw a sharp distinction between this case and Holland with respect to history.
With respect to equitable tolling, you did have decisions going back to the 1800s recognizing that Federal statutes of limitation in all kinds of contexts, civil and criminal, were subject to equitable tolling.
And so then in Irwin, 6 years before AEDPA, you actually create a presumption that if Congress doesn't specifically, you know, exclude equitable tolling--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I'm not talking about that presumption.
John J. Bursch: --Right.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I'm talking about--
John J. Bursch: Now I'm going to move to miscarriage of justice.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --our cause and effect and manifest injustice.
John J. Bursch: Yes.
So the cause and effect, the manifest injustice, the actual innocence, really starts to develop in 1986, and it comes to fruition in Schlup in 1995 right before AEDPA is passed.
Importantly, that exception was always applied to court-created procedural bars, never once to a Federal statute of limitations.
And obviously, the separation of powers considerations are quite different when you're talking about a court-created exception to a court-created bar.
The first is a bar that's enforced by Congress itself.
Justice Elena Kagan: But you're creating a world in which this would function as an exception to a State time limit, but not to the AEDPA time limit.
John J. Bursch: That's correct.
Justice Elena Kagan: Why does that make any sense?
John J. Bursch: Because it was the Court itself that created the judicial exception to the State filing.
And so then -- or I'm sorry, that created the bar with respect to the State filing.
And so then it was completely within the Court's power to make an exception to that bar.
But again here, the separation of powers considerations militate differently when you're talking about Congress doing the telling, and this Court has acknowledged in Launcher and Dodd and other places that Congress gets to set the parameters of habeas.
Justice Elena Kagan: But I thought we said in Missouri v. Holland that AEDPA was -- was enacted against a background rule which stated that normal equitable principles, such as this one, which had been applied everywhere to all procedural bars, that AEDPA suggested that those would -- wouldn't fit -- AEDPA was against a background that those would continue to apply.
John J. Bursch: Well, it was a very short background, one with no Irwin-like presumption and one that, again, had never ever been applied to a Federal statute of limitations.
Justice Elena Kagan: And why is a Federal statute of limitations any different?
John J. Bursch: Because it's Congress and Congress is the one that's handcuffing the Court with respect to the scope of--
Justice Elena Kagan: Yes, but again, it's Congress that we said in Holland, that it's Congress and AEDPA has -- has -- was drafted against this presumption that normal equitable principles would apply.
John J. Bursch: --But here's another way to think about it.
You know, if you imagine the -- the template that you have on your Microsoft Word when you're doing a document, an opinion, whatever, you've got certain stuff that's on the template, and you said in Irwin that when it comes to equitable tolling, you've always got a sub-provision V, call it, in every Federal statute of limitations that appears on that template.
And so Congress has to do something affirmatively to strike that out.
Because the miscarriage of justice exception had never been applied to any Federal -- Federal statute of limitations, there wasn't a miscarriage of justice exception sitting on the template.
Congress was writing from scratch.
Justice Elena Kagan: But again, why would Congress have thought that there would be any difference in -- with respect to a statute of limitations?
John J. Bursch: Well, the biggest reason is because of the State interest in notice and investigating the evidence.
When you're talking about the typical Schlup claim--
Justice Elena Kagan: But that applies to States as well.
John J. Bursch: --Well, no, there -- there you have stale claims, but you don't have stale evidence.
And, you know, we -- we don't have any problem with litigating a claim that could have been litigated earlier and is going to be litigated now.
But the world of evidence, the record that supports the claim, is already defined and is not going to change.
The world we're dealing with in 2244(d)(1)(D) is when new stuff has come forward and if that new stuff sits in the jailhouse cell for 10, 20, 30 years and we don't have an opportunity to talk to those witnesses, to do counter-investigation, then not only are we prejudiced with respect to delay and finality and things like that, but we're prejudiced with respect to the merits determination of what that evidence means.
And when I talked about my three constructs, you know, this case here where you're using the old evidence to establish the underlying claim, that's really the position where the State is in the worst possible position, because now you've got a -- you know, the dry cleaning clerk affidavit, a 10-year-old affidavit, we can't possibly cross-examine her, and yet not only is that their gateway, that's their substantive merits claim about why there is ineffective assistance of counsel.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why can't you cross-examine her?
Is it just because the lapse of time and she won't remember?
John J. Bursch: It'll be very difficult.
And there are some examples in the amici briefs of the New York case, for example, where witnesses were completely unavailable.
They had died or one was out of State and because of mental infirmities could not travel.
You know, we all know that as time passes evidence deteriorates, whether it's because of -- of death or illness or simply forgetfulness.
I certainly can't remember what I was doing 10 years ago today.
And the affidavit that she submitted was quite short.
And that one affidavit is just a microcosm of the problem when you don't come forward immediately with evidence.
One other point that I want to make really on the equities here, because we're spending a lot of time on that--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Do you have any idea how many actual-innocence claims win on the underlying constitutional issue?
John J. Bursch: --Right.
The number that win is small.
But what this case demonstrates is that the number where it's claimed is very high.
In fact, in Michigan, you know, where we deal with procedural defaults every day, somewhere between a third and a half of our petitioners claimed actual innocence so that they can use Schlup to get past the -- the failure to prove cause and prejudice.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: How many wins on the attempt?
John J. Bursch: Well, in the Sixth Circuit, a little more than in some other circuits, but generally, not very many--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Not many.
John J. Bursch: --you know.
But this case is the perfect example.
When you cut the court loose from the statutory requirement, you end up with what Justice Alito is describing, you know, a situation where no one thinks that Mr. Perkins is actually innocent based on this new evidence; at best, it proves that he had a co-conspirator who helped him commit the murder together.
And yet now we've got the Sixth Circuit order, which purportedly sends us back to the trial court to do, you know, who knows what?
How do you prove that he's not innocent?
Well, a jury already did that.
The jury heard all the evidence, they had a presumption of innocence.
All the constitutional rules that should have been were applied to that trial, and the jury said he's guilty and there's not a presumption of innocence anymore.
And -- and the equitable point that I wanted to touch on is that this is not just about prejudicing the State's interest.
If you allow claims like these to go forward, it also prejudices those who have legitimate claims of actual innocence, the needle in the haystack.
And Justices O'Connor and Kennedy in their Herrera concurrence talked about the haystack problem, that when you keep adding hay to that pile, not only is it harder to find the needle, the truly meritorious claim, but at some point the Federal judges just give up and they stop looking.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Why -- why is it that the meritorious claim is going to be the one that's going to be hidden?
John J. Bursch: Because there are so many.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Meaning--
John J. Bursch: It's important to understand that -- that notwithstanding the limits that Congress was trying to put on these habeas petitions when it enacted AEDPA, that we actually have more habeas filings on an annual basis today than we did before AEDPA was enacted.
It's not going to stop the filing.
This is just one small rule to cut the haystack down a little bit and make it that much easier to find the needle.
And if you can find that occasional needle -- and we submit there's not a lot of those -- Federal judges are going to be more inclined to look for those.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But you would -- you want to keep it out altogether.
John J. Bursch: No.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: You want an actually -- potentially actually innocent person not to have--
John J. Bursch: No, that is not our position.
And I want to be really clear about this.
First they've got the year, but if they go past the year, they've got the State system.
And what the examples in the amici briefs demonstrate is that--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But they don't have the Federal system--
John J. Bursch: --No, they don't.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --as the first habeas.
John J. Bursch: But as the Alabama amici brief explains, every State has got a process for curing these claims no matter how old they are.
You've also got the prosecutors who look at these and they don't want to keep an innocent person in jail.
And then lastly, you've got clemency, which this Court has always recognized as the remedy for those who assert true, actual innocence but have no constitutional violation to assert.
Unless there are further questions, I would like to reserve the balance of my time.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF CHAD A. READLER ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENT
Chad A. Readler: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
I would like to start with Justice Kagan's question regarding the important background interpretive principle here that's set out, set out in Holland.
There the Court held that longstanding equitable rules in the habeas context are incorporated into AEDPA barring a clear command by Congress to the contrary.
And the longstanding miscarriage of justice exception has had a well-settled meaning.
It has allowed petitioners who can meet the high standing of showing actual innocence a procedural gateway around a procedural bar to allow them to present their otherwise barred constitutional claims in Federal court.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Before you proceed with that, can you address Justice Alito's point that the district court said there is no merit to this; it's not an actual innocence -- it's not a valid actual innocence claim.
And then the Sixth Circuit sends it back for the district court to decide something it's already decided?
How do you overcome that the Sixth Circuit never reviewed the actual innocence question, the district court did and said it doesn't make it?
Chad A. Readler: That's correct, Justice Ginsburg.
And with respect to Justice Alito's question, the reform recommendation from the magistrate denied this petition on statute of limitations grounds solely, and said it was too late and it missed the statutory period.
At the district court level, the court held that the statute of limitations was missed and that there was no diligence; the court believed there was a diligence requirement and so the petition failed for that reason.
And then, as Justice Alito noted, the court added some other language which said -- was not a weighing of the evidence, but the court said that it felt that the evidence was not new in the sense that it was reasonably -- potentially reasonably known at the time of trial, which I think is one -- was, one, the wrong legal standard but, two, was a misinterpretation of Schlup, because Schlup allows you to consider all the evidence, old and new, and I don't think that's what the district -- the district court I think applied the wrong legal standard, so it wasn't actually getting to the merits.
It didn't sort of set out all the evidence and weigh them.
And then, Justice Ginsburg, you are correct that this was not part of the certificate of appealability.
The certificate of appealability was limited on the narrow question of whether there was a diligence requirement.
That factual issue was not before the Sixth Circuit and hasn't -- it is not before this Court as well, and what I think this Court should do is what it did in Schlup, which is announce the standard that should apply and then it remanded the case back to the district court for application of the correct standards.
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, I don't understand that.
The district court -- or you seem to suggest the district court was wrong in saying that there wasn't sufficient evidence for an actual-innocence claim.
Maybe that's the case, maybe it was wrong.
But if it decided that issue and the issue wasn't appealed, then the issue is settled.
And that's the problem that I see.
Now, how do you get around that?
Chad A. Readler: Justice Alito, I don't read the Sixth -- or I don't read the district court as actually getting to the merits.
I think it applied a wrong legal rule and said, I can't even consider the evidence because it's not new evidence.
I think that was an erroneous interpretation.
Under Schlup, the Court has said many times that the court can consider all the evidence old and new.
And I think that case really turns on the equitable tolling--
Justice Samuel Alito: Did you ask for a certificate -- what other issues did you ask for a certificate of appealability on?
Chad A. Readler: --Well, our client was acting pro se.
Justice Samuel Alito: What other issues did he ask for a certificate on?
Chad A. Readler: Justice Alito, I don't -- I don't have that in front of me.
I don't recall the full contours of what he requested.
The certificate, the Sixth Circuit granted it on the one narrow issue of whether diligence was a requirement.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Counsel, you say on page 17 of your brief that this Court has applied the manifest-injustice exception to limits created by Congress.
What's your best case for that?
Chad A. Readler: Absolutely, Mr. Chief Justice.
Those cases are on pages 36 to 38 of the red brief and I think my friend and I have a disagreement here.
It's true that the rule has never been applied to the statute of limitations because there was no statute of limitations for AEDPA before the statute.
But the Court has applied the exception to acts of Congress.
It did so in Sanders.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What do you mean, acts of Congress?
Your sentence says, applied at the limits created by Congress.
I read that to mean statutes of limitations, but that's wrong?
Chad A. Readler: Mr. Chief Justice, that's incorrect in the sense that there was no Federal statute of limitations before AEDPA.
But the Court had applied the miscarriage of justice exception to acts of Congress.
So, for instance, in Sanders, Congress had included in 2244 an ends-of-justice provision which seemed to allow the Court to consider the ends of justice when considering whether to hear a successive petition, which is essentially the equivalent of miscarriage of justice.
It did not include that language in 2255, and yet the Court read 2255 as also including the ends-of-justice requirement, hence the miscarriage of justice, even though the language wasn't there.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: With 2255, remind me?
Chad A. Readler: --For Federal, Federal petitions.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: And said what with respect to time--
Chad A. Readler: Federal convictions.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Said what with respect to the time limits?
Chad A. Readler: There were -- there were -- there were -- there was language in both, in both statutes regarding when you could bring a successive petition.
The statute that applied to petitions out of State judgment, 2254, included an ends-of-justice provision which said the court could consider the ends of justice in deciding whether to take a second or successive petition.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So when you said limits, you didn't mean time limits; you meant substantive limits?
Chad A. Readler: Substantive -- well, no.
Procedural limits, procedural limits on -- procedural limits.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Procedural limits.
Do you have a case that applies it to time limits, which of course is the question we have here.
Chad A. Readler: We do.
In -- in -- now, these would be State time limits, but--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Right.
You said limits created by Congress.
So just -- I mean, I should read “ limits created by Congress ” not to mean time limits, but procedural or other limits.
Chad A. Readler: --Well, Mr. Chief Justice, there have never been any time limits.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Right.
I guess that's the point of my questioning and your friend's position.
There have never been any time limits created by Congress that have been abrogated by a manifest-injustice exception.
Chad A. Readler: I think I can agree with that because there was never a statute of limitations before AEDPA.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Right.
And the difference is in Holland we are dealing with equitable tolling, which had applied as far back as, you know, whatever the law goes to limitations; in other words, equitable tolling which is different from the abrogation I think that you are asking for.
Chad A. Readler: Well, I don't think so, Mr. Chief Justice.
Two responses: First, with respect to the timing issue, the Court had applied the miscarriage-of-justice exception to abusive petitions, so there is a timing concern invoked there because you're filing a second petition when you could have raised issues earlier, and the Court has said even in that timing context, not a statute of limitations, but it certainly invokes timing concerns, that even in that instance the miscarriage of justice would still overcome the rule.
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, you are asking for what is potentially a very big exception to the 1-year statute of limitations.
If you took a poll of all of the prisoners in Michigan, how many of them do you think would say they are actually innocent?
Chad A. Readler: Justice Alito, I suspect few of them could credibly say--
Justice Samuel Alito: Very few would say they are actually innocent?
Chad A. Readler: --Well, I haven't done that study.
I suspect very few of them would say that they -- credibly say that they are actually innocent.
Justice Samuel Alito: Oh, credibly say.
But how many would say that they are actually innocent?
And a lot would be able to come up with evidence that is equal to what the petition -- what the Respondent here has come up with.
Now, do you think it's plausible that Congress, in establishing this new 1-year statute of limitations because it doesn't want these things to drag on indefinitely, intended to create an exemption that broad so that anybody who claims to be actually innocent can at least get over -- can get to the point where the Court has to decide whether the -- has to weigh this evidence of actual innocence to see whether it gets over the threshold?
Chad A. Readler: Should--
Justice Samuel Alito: Is that plausible given what Congress was trying to do in AEDPA?
Chad A. Readler: --Absolutely, Justice Alito, for two reasons.
First of all, the background presumption, of course, given the established nature of this exception -- in fact, on Mr. Chief Justice's question, while this exception as compared to equitable tolling in the criminal context, I think is actually more important because it goes to the ultimate equity and that is innocence.
But the background presumption is that Congress includes these foundational equitable rules of which the miscarriage of justice exception is absolutely one of them, unless Congress expressly says otherwise.
Now, Justice Alito, no -- no petitioner is going to want to find themselves in the Schlup world where they missed the statute of limitations.
It is not a place they are going to want to be.
They are going to absolutely want to file within a year if they can.
Sometimes they miss that period and what the Court has said, in those rare circumstances where you can make a credible, compelling showing of actual innocence, we will allow you around the statute of limitations.
But no petitioner wants to be in that circumstance because the Schlup standard is so high.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I'm not sure that's right.
They don't want to definitely file within one year if they don't have anything to say.
You know, if it takes a certain amount of time before they either acquire it legitimately or can find somebody or, I don't know, in this case, the codefendant dies, everybody has no reason any more to object and pin it on him.
There are a lot of reasons that it's in some of these prisoners' interest to drag things out and then to file.
They don't have anything to say within the one year and need time to either, from your point of view, legitimately develop the evidence, or, from your friend's point of view, to concoct it.
Chad A. Readler: Well, and the statue speaks to that.
I mean, I think we do have a disagreement on the interpretation of the statute, but 2244(d)(1)(D) does speak to the discovery of new evidence which goes to support a claim.
I think Congress--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And the statute of limitations would run from the discovery of the new evidence, not from--
Chad A. Readler: --That's correct, Justice Ginsburg, to the extent that the evidence goes to support a claim.
Congress included a typical discovery rule.
If you've discovered new evidence that -- that supports the factual underpinnings of your claim, that starts the one-year period over again.
But critically -- and I think my friend and I have a disagreement here -- critically, with respect to that provision, if you find evidence that solely goes to your innocence, that provision is not triggered.
Meaning you don't get another year if you find completely exculpatory evidence that shows you're not innocent, you don't -- you don't necessarily get another year.
And there's a hypothetical I can give you.
If your underlying claims is a Batson claim, a structural error claim and you fail to raise it and you missed the one-year limitations period, but then 10 years later, you find DNA evidence that completely exonerates your client that was unknown to anyone, so it's not the basis for an IEC claim, it's not the basis for prosecutorial misconduct, in that instance, the statute doesn't start the limitations period over.
You're entirely out of luck, which is why Congress had to have meant to include the absolute -- the innocence exception for just that kind of case, so that petitioner at least has the ability to try to meet the Schlup standard.
Justice Samuel Alito: But that's very odd, because if you have somebody who's actually innocent, then you're saying that person can't get out of prison unless the person happens to have a good constitutional claim that's totally unrelated to the fact that the person is actually innocent.
That's very odd, isn't it?
Chad A. Readler: Well, I don't think so, Justice Alito, in the sense that all this is, is a gateway to allow them their first opportunity to bring a Federal habeas petition.
Ordinarily, they're out of luck.
But if they brought evidence that is so compelling that shows that there may well have been a miscarriage of justice, because this person has shown under the substandard they're actually innocent, then in that instance, the Court has always said that we're going to allow those claims to be heard, at least in the first instance, by a Federal court for a first petition.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Your friend responds to that point, I think, by saying that every State allows collateral review in that instance and that what we're talking about is simply preclusion of the second bite at the apple or a third bite at the apple, I guess, by -- by assumption in the Federal system.
Chad A. Readler: Well, Mr. Chief Justice, I'm not sure that's practical to the extent that we've already raised our underlying constitutional claims in the State court.
Those have been exhausted.
So the Michigan rule, as I read it, doesn't allow us to go back to State court and present our constitutional claims again.
They've already been adjudicated.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What about the actual-innocence claim?
Chad A. Readler: The innocence evidence may -- you may be able to pursue that under -- under the -- under the state rule, but that is more akin to a freestanding--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Is that the most -- is that the most -- I thought I understood your friend to say, he can correct me if I'm wrong, that every State has an avenue for considering that.
Chad A. Readler: --Well, two responses.
One, I think every State has different rules until this -- the application of the exception is never turned on sort of what the alternative potential State rule is.
That wasn't -- that was true in House and true in Schlup where there were State alternatives.
But, too, those State alternatives go to freestanding innocence claims, where you're not -- you're not alleging that there's an underlying constitutional violation.
What you're saying is, similar to Herrera, and that is, that I have evidence that shows setting aside any error of the trial, no errors, I have evidence that shows I'm innocent.
That's a completely different concept.
And what we're getting at here is the case where you wanted evidence of innocence, and two, have a constitutionally corrupt trial or at least an allegation of a constitutionally corrupt trial.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, I see--
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, assuming for the sake of argument that there is this exception.
Why shouldn't diligence be required?
How can it be equitable to allow someone to bring a claim when the person has -- involving new evidence, when the person has not been diligent in presenting this new evidence to the court?
Chad A. Readler: Justice Alito, for decades this Court has never required diligence and, in fact, in McCloskey has expressly rejected it and the Court has noted that diligence has not historically been required under the standard, because as the Court said in House and Calderon, that Congress raised the bar in two places on the statute.
But the reason why is because as Justice O'Connor said in her concurring opinion with -- with -- in Withrow with Chief Justice Rehnquist is that innocence is the ultimate equity.
And it trumps -- diligence is not the ultimate equity, it's innocence.
And if a petitioner can come forward and make a credible showing of actual innocence, that standing alone has always been enough to allow a Federal court to at least go ahead and then reach the underlying claim.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --You have a larger -- you have a larger category, you say miscarriage of justice.
So one is actual innocence.
You say the category is well defined.
So what else would fit under this?
And we can bring it up very late in the day.
Anything else other than actual innocence would be in this category?
Chad A. Readler: Justice Ginsburg, I think the Court has always treated the phrase “ miscarriage of justice ” as synonymous with actual innocence, and that's the one thing it's getting at.
It's a narrow exception, it's difficult to meet, but -- but it's always included cases where you can make--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --Counsel--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Are bribed jurors not a miscarriage of justice?
Chad A. Readler: --I'm sorry, Justice--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: A juror who's bribed, is there no -- no miscarriage of justice there?
Chad A. Readler: --Well, that would presumably be the basis for a habeas claim.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But what we're talking about the meaning of the term “ miscarriage of justice ”.
It seems to me there -- there are many serious errors that can be described by that general phrase.
Chad A. Readler: Well, Justice Kennedy--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Do you want to say it's a term of art?
Chad A. Readler: --Justice Kennedy, I'm relying on the Court's decades of decisions, many of which you've written in this area, where they've described miscarriage of justice in the habeas setting as the equivalent of incarceration of an innocent person and that's what the exception is getting at.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --I--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: So does this boil down to -- I mean, you have a one-year statute of limitations.
Now, I guess suppose Hurricane Katrina came along and threw all the documents away for two months.
I guess the Court could extend it, couldn't it?
Chad A. Readler: Well, that could be viewed as an impediment under -- under the statute, there's a statutory provision for--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes, I mean, don't they toll it when there's some -- when the courthouse burns down?
Chad A. Readler: --It could also be based on tolling, correct.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
So you want to say, and that's also true when the person is actually innocent if you can prove that, delay it.
Is that what you're saying?
Chad A. Readler: I'm not sure if I fully understand the question.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, he has his one year and he gives four criteria.
And the four criteria sometimes are not exclusive.
And you want to say yours is one of the times.
Chad A. Readler: That's -- that's true.
They're not exclusive.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And a different one you say is when he's actually innocent.
Chad A. Readler: --That's -- that's -- that's correct.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
If that's correct, then suppose that he purposely has delayed filing this until everybody's dead so they know they can't prove it anymore.
Chad A. Readler: Well, then that raises a whole--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, what is your answer?
Chad A. Readler: --different range of--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Or can he toll it under those circumstances?
Chad A. Readler: --Well, any -- as the Court said in Schlup, the timing of the submission by the Petitioner can certainly be considered in the Schlup analysis.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: So the answer is in your view, if he deliberately and -- and without cause delays it for 5 years his filing, just so everybody will die, you would say, okay, I'm not worried about him.
Chad A. Readler: Well, Justice Breyer--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Is that right?
Would you or wouldn't you?
Chad A. Readler: --I would say -- I would say that he can still attempt to avail himself of the Federal miscarriage of justice exception, but the huge problem he's going to run into--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Does he win or lose?
Chad A. Readler: --He likely -- he may well lose.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What do you think?
Chad A. Readler: He may well lose at the Schlup stage.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I didn't ask that.
I said what do you think.
Chad A. Readler: Well, I don't have all the facts, I suspect he's going to lose.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes, you do.
I made up the hypothetical.
Chad A. Readler: Well, Justice Breyer, on those facts I'm going to say he loses at the Schlup stage because Schlup, which is one, incredibly high bar to meet.
But two, the Court expressly said at page 322 of the opinion that it could consider the timing of the evidence when it's submitted.
So it already takes into account any sort of game playing that petitioner may engage in when they're trying to assert their innocence.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: And how long did you--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I'm just trying to -- they admit that if he's diligent, it's okay.
Chad A. Readler: The State?
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes.
Do you believe he's diligent?
Chad A. Readler: We believe he's diligent.
The State is asking for a diligence requirement that the Court has never imposed.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The State is asking for a diligence requirement.
You admit that there's a requirement that -- that you have to not really use this as a sham device, so we're pretty close.
Chad A. Readler: Well, there's -- there's never been a diligence requirement in this setting, because that's not been the focus.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But there is a sham -- there is a sham and deliberate delay requirement, not a diligence one, but there is a sham.
I'm not trying to trick you.
Chad A. Readler: No, but--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What I'm trying to say is maybe we're arguing about something that we could solve.
That is, in fact, many of these people don't have lawyers.
They don't understand the statute of limitations, they don't understand what diligence might consist of looking later.
You agree that it's -- it shouldn't be a sham, shouldn't do it deliberately.
Now, if I'm thinking about that, how would you advise me to write it?
Chad A. Readler: --I think -- I think the Court can just build on the principles it's already set forward in Schlup and other places, and that is, that there's never been a diligence requirement in this setting.
And Congress, by the way, did not -- the Congress -- the intent of Congress was not to include a diligence requirement here because in two places it did include a diligence requirement with respect to successive petitions or evidentiary hearings, so congressional intent was not to include diligence--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But there has always been a laches defense until Rule 9(A) was rescinded.
Chad A. Readler: --That's correct, Justice Sotomayor.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: All right.
So there's been some form, not a due diligence, but some form of check on a prisoner waiting so long that a state can't respond.
The -- Justice Breyer's hypothetical.
So he's asking you, I think, to tell us how to write it.
So do we write it by saying there's no diligence requirement, but there is a sort of common law laches, although that's a hard argument to make because it was based on 9(A) until recently.
Or, do we just say it's equity and equity would suggest that if it's contrived, the delay is contrived, that the evidence is suspect and doesn't -- shouldn't be credited?
Chad A. Readler: Absolutely.
First, just with respect to Rule 9(a), Chief Justice Burger, in a concurring opinion to a dissent in Spalding said that even a laches rule would give way if there was a colorable showing of actual innocence.
With respect to the rule I'd write, I would write the rule that is essentially already in place, and that is that the miscarriage of justice exception does not turn on diligence; it turns on whether you can show innocence.
And in -- in attempting to show innocence under Schlup, this timing -- the timing of the submissions is a consideration.
So if there's -- if there's been a delay that somehow hurts the State because a witness has died, or that it appears to be that that's the fault, or that the petitioner was playing games in that context, I think it's a fair consideration under Schlup.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: How about--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Is this established after -- after some kind of evidentiary hearing, the delay, whether he delayed for a particular purpose or not?
Chad A. Readler: Well, it depends.
If -- if the petition is filed 3 weeks after the star witness dies, presumably the State will come back in their petition and note, one, all the evidence that they think goes against the -- the petitioner's claim.
But also, they'll note that this happened, and the court could resolve it at that stage, too--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Why -- why did your client wait 5 years after the last affidavit?
Chad A. Readler: --A number of reasons, Mr. Chief Justice.
One, he was looking for counsel to assist him.
Two, he continued to look for evidence.
Three, he didn't have access to his legal papers.
Many of his legal papers were lost in a prison riot and then a flood that occurred at this prison, so he didn't have access to those and had to regain those.
For a period of time, he was denied access to the library and to a legal writer.
So there were a culmination of reasons why he didn't do this, but I think two of the critical ones were looking for counsel and trying to develop more evidence.
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, as your -- as your adversary says, there's nothing really procedurally complicated about filing a Federal habeas.
There -- there are forms -- I've read hundreds of them that have been filed by pro se petitioners, and there is nothing technical about claiming: “ I'm innocent of this offense ”.
This isn't a legal issue.
It's something anybody can understand.
I've got an -- I've got my sister's affidavit, I have an affidavit by a third person, I have an affidavit by a person who worked in the dry cleaning shop that shows that I'm actually innocent.
Why doesn't -- what is the reason for waiting 5 years to file that?
Chad A. Readler: Well, Justice Alito, no -- no rational petitioner is going to want to wait in that period, because if they file within the 1-year period, they go straight to review on their habeas claims and they don't have to worry about any procedural gateway.
So -- so no rational--
Justice Samuel Alito: But I -- I don't understand your answer about why it took him 5 years from the -- from obtaining the last affidavit to the filing of the Federal habeas.
You said he couldn't get a lawyer.
He really didn't need a lawyer to do this.
He didn't have access to a library.
This isn't a legal issue, this isn't a complicated legal issue.
It's a factual issue that anybody who watches detective shows on TV can understand.
Chad A. Readler: --Well, and Justice Alito, you're right, we're not arguing for equitable tolling here in the sense that he could have filed earlier.
There wasn't -- there wasn't a State impediment that stood in his way the entire period of time.
And he should have filed it earlier, and had he filed earlier then he would have gone straight to consideration of his underlying habeas claims and wouldn't have to worry about this high hurdle of satisfying--
Justice Samuel Alito: But you think that Congress, which in AEDPA was trying to speed all this up and get rid of the delay and make things simpler, intended to allow that?
You could wait 5 years, you could wait 10 years, you could wait 15 years; it doesn't matter?
That's what AEDPA was intended to do?
Chad A. Readler: --Well, no, Justice Alito, you're correct that AEDPA was intended to delay -- or to end delay when possible -- but as the Court said in Holland, AEDPA was not meant to end every delay at all costs.
I think this is exactly the situation it had in mind.
In Calderon, the Court recognized that the miscarriage of justice exception is consistent with AEDPA because -- because it arises so rarely that in the vast majority of cases, the finality and comity concerns that the State has are honored, because there's no -- there's no additional proceeding, the petitioner will not meet the high Schlup standard and the case will end.
But in the rare case where a petitioner can satisfy Schlup, the Court has always said that the courthouse doors in that circumstance will be open to review of your first Federal petition.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --In the Second Circuit, where they've had a similar case, the Second Circuit itself said that actual innocence is rare.
This is such a case.
This is a case where the alibi that he had was -- it was established by forensic evidence, air-tight, he was someplace else.
The -- the Second Circuit didn't send it to the district court to decide the actual innocence.
It decided that itself and then said: District court, now you deal with the -- with the questions that the petitioner is raising, the constitutional questions.
But the Sixth Circuit just seemed to be -- it didn't matter whether -- it didn't matter whether the actual innocence claim had any solid basis when they sent it back to the district court.
So, shouldn't -- if there is an actual-innocence gateway, shouldn't the court of appeals determine that before it returns the case to the district court?
Chad A. Readler: I think ordinarily, yes.
The Sixth Circuit said here that there was a gateway, and it was remanding the case back to the district court--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But it didn't find anything about whether this was -- this claim was a good one.
Chad A. Readler: --That's correct.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And I'm still puzzled about what happens next.
The case goes back to the district court and the -- the district court is told: Diligence doesn't matter.
The district court says, yes, but I thought -- I thought that the claim was worthless.
Chad A. Readler: Well, it's correct that the case should be remanded back to the district court, just like this case -- just like the Court did in Schlup, where it announced the standard and remanded back to the district court for application.
But here, I disagree with that reading of the underlying opinion, in that the Court doesn't set out into the weighing all the evidence and saying here's what I find in favor of the petitioner and here's what I find in favor of the State.
What the district court said is that -- it said the timing of the evidence was somehow a problem because the information was known at trial, which I think is again wrong for two reasons.
I think the petitioner has -- is able to use the information, because the problem for us was his attorney was told about some of these things but didn't actually assert them, or didn't interview one of the key witnesses.
One of the affiants was on the prosecution's witness list and my client's lawyer didn't even interview that person, let alone call them.
And then the court -- I think the court -- the trial court misunderstood Schlup, because Schlup allows you to consider all the evidence old and new, make appropriate credibility determinations, consider the timeliness of the evidence, and determine whether that standard has been met.
And I think that's what should happen here for the first time, in our view.
And there is a question -- there was a question earlier with respect to how often the Schlup standard is met.
In response to the reply brief, we did a search of circuit courts.
And we found since Schlup was decided eight circuits that have upheld or have found that Schlup was satisfied.
If you add in House, then that adds nine appellate cases where Schlup was satisfied.
So it's -- it's a narrow range of cases.
It shouldn't be difficult to meet, but we--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, but I mean, the whole question -- and your friend made the point -- the question is how many are filed, in how many cases does the claim arise, not how few times it's upheld.
Chad A. Readler: --Sure.
Mr. Chief Justice, I suspect no matter the rules, there will always be filings by petitioners, and many of those may be frivolous.
But as the Court has said in Panetti and other cases, you know, unmeritorious petitions can be dismissed at the earliest course, and it's consistent with Habeas Rule 4.
That's what should happen in this instance, too.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: How do you know which of these are meritorious and which aren't?
Is this the meritorious -- I assume you think this is a meritorious one?
Chad A. Readler: --We do, Mr. Chief Justice.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: And your friend says nobody can reasonably think this person is innocent.
Maybe he has constitutional claims.
But if you look at the evidence, is this something that at a preliminary stage, you look and say oh, this guy's clearly innocent and this goes forward, or is it one that you can cast aside?
Chad A. Readler: I don't think it's one you can cast aside.
I think you -- you have to give this more development.
And by the way, he was proceeding pro se.
I think when he -- when the case is remanded, with assistance of counsel, he can present -- better present the evidence and better present some other things to make the showing stronger.
And I think we can meet the Schlup standard.
If there are no further questions, we'd ask that the Sixth Circuit be affirmed.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Bursch, you have 4 minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF JOHN J. BURSCH ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
John J. Bursch: Three brief points about Holland, and some closing thoughts about diligence.
With respect to Holland, I want to note first of all that there, you were dealing with legislative assignments.
Everyone agreed that Congress had not done anything about equitable tolling.
And as I explained earlier, when you consider the three categories of defendants who claim actual innocence based on new evidence, this situation here, where the new evidence relates to a factual predicate of the constitutional claim asserted, that's where Congress most clearly meant to have a limitations period apply.
So it's very different.
With respect to equitable tolling applying to acts of Congress, everyone recognizes that.
Mr. Chief Justice, you note that this has never been applied to limitations.
I actually have to take issue with my friend's statement that Sanders and Kuhlmann somehow took a different tack, because in both of those cases, what Congress did is it left it to the district judge's discretion to do or not do something.
And all this Court said was well, if they've got discretion, then they can still have an equitable exception.
So even in those cases, this miscarriage of justice exception has never ever been used to override a congressional act.
The last thing is that in equitable tolling, you are dealing with the fault of the petitioner -- Hurricane Katrina or something else happened, that wasn't their fault.
And here, it's entirely within the Petitioner's control.
All they have to do is print the form, check the boxes, attach the evidence and then file the claim.
And they have an unlimited time to find evidence and then 1 year after that, to file.
Now, with respect to diligence--
Justice Elena Kagan: Mr. Bursch, you suggested earlier some way out of this puzzle about why Congress would have put the actual-innocence exception into the second successive petition provision, and not had one for a first petition--
John J. Bursch: --Yes.
Justice Elena Kagan: --But that seems really quite odd to me.
I mean, a number of my colleagues have said can we really believe that Congress contemplated this.
But, I mean, don't we have evidence that Congress contemplated it, in the second and successive context, a slightly tighter version, wouldn't it be quite odd to say that Congress contemplated an actual-innocence exception when you are on your second petition but barred it when you are on your first?
What sense would that be.
John J. Bursch: Let me explain that and I'm glad you raised that because, you know, besides the legislative history that informs what we are looking at here, what they did in 2244(d)(1)(D) is they made it broader.
They said even if you don't claim innocence, if you are coming forward with new evidence we want the court to hear that constitutional claim if you bring it within one year.
The reason they didn't mention it there is because it would have made the provision narrower and they didn't want to do that.
Then they ratcheted it up with respect to successive petitions, making you pass through the successive petition actual-innocence gateway and then comply with the limitations period.
So that's the explanation consistent were with legislative history.
Justice Elena Kagan: Well, I guess I'm just not sure I understand that.
I mean, they could have added a separate provision.
Just saying, there's an actual-innocence exception or there is -- there's not consistent with the way they did it in the second and successive petition.
John J. Bursch: Right, they could have, but again, that would have limited (d)(1)(D).
Justice Elena Kagan: Well, it didn't have to.
Why would it have necessarily limited (d)(1)(D)?
John J. Bursch: Well, if they said there is an exception for those who claim actual innocence, the implication is for those who don't claim actual innocence, you are out of luck.
Justice Elena Kagan: Well, you just you make the converse clear.
John J. Bursch: Well, if we could rewrite congressional statutes with hindsight, maybe we could draft a perfect statute.
Justice Elena Kagan: All I'm saying is that your interpretation of the statute creates a glaring anomaly that people would be out of court on the first petition and they could turn around on their second petition, which is usually disfavored, and get an actual-innocence exception.
John J. Bursch: No, that's not the way that we interpret this at all.
Under either provision, you are stuck with (d)(1)(D), you have got to file within a year.
All that the successive provision adds to it is that you do have a statutory actual innocence gateway to pass through first that you don't have on our first petition.
That's our position.
I do want to close with some thoughts about diligence.
You know, looking for counsel, we've talked about how simple it is to file these things.
The papers lost in the prison riot and the access to the library are related, and it's because Defendant Perkins incited the prison riot, so he is hardly in an equitable position of claiming any tolling benefit from that.
And with respect to the rule, Justice Breyer, we can't have a diligence rule if you go to that point based on intent because the interest that is being vindicated here is not the purpose of the Petitioner--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What do you think about the words
"discovered in exercise of due diligence. "
You know, you could manipulate those words so as to deal with the circumstance of the, say, below-average IQ person who doesn't have a lawyer, who isn't certain about what to do, and what counts as diligence and discovery in that case.
Is that -- are you objecting to that?
Do you object to that?
What do you think?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Go ahead, briefly.
John J. Bursch: --As long as it takes into account that the State interest in timeliness is at its apex when we are dealing with new evidence that relates to the actual constitutional claim.
And they are asking for not equitable tolling, but extraordinary tolling that you should reject.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
The case is submitted.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Justice Ginsburg has our opinion this morning, case 12-126, McQuiggin versus Perkins.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: This case involves what we have called a gateway for a federal habeas corpus petitioner to gain adjudication of an alleged constitutional error.
An edifying, I hope, illustration.
Suppose a person asserts that at his trial, he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, but there is a procedural impediment to making that claim.
For example, the prisoner failed to raise it in an earlier petition.
If the prisoner can show that he is actually innocent of the crime for which he has been convicted, that showing will serve as a gateway enabling him to present the otherwise barred claim of constitutional error.
In 1993, Floyd Perkins was charged with murdering his friend, Rodney Henderson.
At trial, Perkins' principal defense was that the prosecution's key witness, Damarr Jones, committed the murder while Perkins himself took no part in it.
A Michigan jury convicted Perkins and his conviction became final in May 1997.
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, AEDPA, a state prisoner has one year from the date on which his conviction became final to petition for habeas corpus relief in federal court.
If the petition is based on new evidence, the prisoner must file within one year of the date on which the new evidence could have been discovered had the prisoner acted diligently.
Perkins first petitioned for federal habeas relief in June 2008, more than 11 years after his conviction became final.
He asserted that his delay should not bar relief because he is in fact innocent of Henderson's murder.
In support of his innocence claim, Perkins submitted three affidavits, each pointing to Jones as the killer.
The District Court dismissed his petition as untimely.
In the alternative, the District Court ruled that Perkins did not meet the strict standard by which pleas of actual innocence are measured.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that if Perkins could show actual innocence, his ineffective assistance of counsel claim should be treated as if it had been filed on time.
We granted review to resolve a circuit conflict on this question. “Can AEDPAs statute of limitations be overcome by a convincing showing of actual innocence?”
Our answer is a qualified yes.
This Court has several times ruled that a convincing claim of actual innocence may supercede a threshold barrier to relief.
This departure from strict application of procedural requirements has been called “the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception”.
The exception survived AEDPAs passage, we have held, and in equity we hold today, it can apply to AEDPAs time limitations.
We part ways with the Sixth Circuit in one respect.
That Court indicated incorrectly in our judgment that a prisoner's failure to exercise diligence is immaterial to the miscarriage of justice exception.
Unjustifiable delay on the petitioner's part, although not an absolute barrier to relief, thus, bear on the determination where the innocence has been reliably shown.
Taking account of an unexplained delay in this way in judging the merits of the actual innocence claim avoids unfairness to the state whose witnesses may have become unavailable or may lack a clear memory of what transpired.
At the same time, the evaluation we instruct reduces the risk that innocent persons will linger in prison as a result of constitutional errors in their prosecutions.
Successful actual-innocence gateway claims, we caution, are rare as the standard for relief is demanding.
The gateway should open only when in light of all the evidence, old and new, no reasonable juror would have found the petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
We return the case for the Six Circuit's determination whether Perkins' claim fits that bill.
Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion joined in fold by the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas and in principle part by Justice Alito.