Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Restoring pendency

Jimenez v Quarterman [2009] USSC 13 January 2009 is a narrow decision in which the plain meaning of statutory language is applied to determine when time for federal proceedings arising from a state conviction begins to run.

Sometimes the language used by a foreign court points to a concise way of expressing an idea. In this case the Court, in a unanimous opinion delivered by Thomas J, used the word "pendency". Here, a conviction had been entered and the time for appeal against it had expired. Later, the appellate court granted leave to appeal out of time. Had the conviction been final before the appellate court granted that leave? Yes. And after the appellate court granted leave to appeal out of time, was the conviction final? Clearly not, as an appeal was pending.

Normally we say that the appeal is pending, and that the conviction is subject to an appeal. Here the Court said the grant of leave to appeal restored the pendency of the conviction.

The Court interpreted section 2244(d)(1)(A) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996, which defines when a conviction is final, in a way that was consistent with the settled understanding in this context. Time for commencement of federal review proceedings begins to run when the state proceedings – including those where leave to appeal out of time has been granted - have concluded.

So, a common sense result. Enough to restore the pendency of one's disenchantment?

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