Federal Habeas Corpus (Hintz)
M 6:40PM - 8:40PM
Silverman Hall M28
Federal habeas corpus allows persons held in custody by federal or state authorities to challenge their detention as violating federal law. The power to grant such persons relief—including release—is undoubtedly one of the most important possessed by the federal courts, serving as “a vital instrument for the protection of individual liberty.” Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 743 (2008).
Federal habeas is invoked in myriad contexts to challenge many types of unlawful confinement, but it plays a uniquely critical role in the criminal justice system. That is because it permits criminal defendants to collaterally attack their convictions and sentences even after all other avenues of relief have closed, and it is frequently utilized for that purpose. Consequently, federal habeas often serves as the last line of defense against fundamental errors in criminal cases.
This course provides an overview of this fascinating and essential area of federal law. The focus will be on the role of federal habeas in the criminal justice system, so most of the class will involve consideration of issues surrounding federal court review of state and federal convictions and sentences. The course will also cover the history of the writ of habeas corpus, the relationship between habeas and the Constitution, and how habeas interacts with other mechanisms for vindicating federal rights (e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Also, time permitting, we may briefly discuss the application of habeas in contexts outside of criminal justice (e.g., immigration, civil detention, quarantine, national security) or mechanisms for challenging convictions that are analogous to habeas (e.g., coram nobis).
Issues of federal habeas law arise in a range of practice and research areas, and habeas cases are filed regularly in federal court. Thus, an understanding of federal habeas may prove valuable—perhaps even necessary—for students interested in, among other things, clerking for the federal courts, criminal law, criminal justice reform, areas of law that involve the possibility of detention, American legal history, and constitutional and civil rights litigation.
This course is an in-person seminar. Students will be evaluated based on a paper on a federal habeas-related topic as well as class participation (including posts to an online discussion board and a brief paper-topic presentation at the end of the semester). The class will meet weekly, and while attendance is expected, the attendance policy is intended to allow for flexibility: students may miss 2 classes without impacting their grade (not including classes missed due to enrollment during the add/drop period), additional classes may be missed without a grade impact if there is significant need, and classes will be recorded.
Constitutional Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of constitutional law; Perform legal analysis in the context of constitutional law; Communicate effectively on topics related to constitutional law; Demonstrate an understanding of constitutional law affects other areas of law.
Courts and the Judicial System Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of both substantive and procedural issues in the operation of our legal system; Perform legal analysis in the context of procedural issues and the judicial process; Communicate effectively on topics related to procedure and the judicial process; Demonstrate an understanding of how procedural issues and the judicial process affect all other area of our legal system.
Criminal Law and Procedure Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of criminal law and procedure; Perform legal analysis in the context of criminal law and procedure; Communicate effectively on topics related to criminal law and procedure; Demonstrate an understanding of the role criminal law and procedure play in society and their impact on other areas of law and society.
Public Interest Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of the varied legal aspects of public interest law; Perform legal analysis in the context of public interest law; Communicate effectively on topics related to public interest law; Demonstrate an understanding of how public interest law is connected to and affected by a wide variety of legal and regulatory structures and doctrines.
"Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-conviction Litigation" by Brandon L. Garrett & Lee Kovarsky