April 27, 2012
On April 24, 2012, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Wood v. Milyard. The question in this case concerns the authority of a federal court to raise, on its own initiative, a statute of limitations defense to a habeas corpus petition.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held that a federal court may generally raise a statute of limitations defense on its own initiative--but may not do so where the State was aware of the defense and intelligently chose not to rely upon it in the court of first instance. Because the State had deliberately waived the limitations defense in this case, the Court explained, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit abused its discretion by resurrecting the defense on appeal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reserved the Tenth Circuit’s dismissal of the habeas petition and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg’s opinion. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which was joined by Justice Scalia.
To discuss the case, we have Brian Means, who is a federal habeas corpus litigator in the Eastern District of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.