Baldwin v. Reese - Oral Argument - December 08, 2003

Baldwin v. Reese

Media for Baldwin v. Reese

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 02, 2004 in Baldwin v. Reese

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 2003 in Baldwin v. Reese

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 02-964, George Baldwin v. Michael Reese.

General Myers.

Hardy Myers:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

When a state prisoner decides to attack his conviction on the basis of a claimed violation of Federal constitutional right, your cases have held that he must first alert the state courts he is raising a Federal claim, if that claim is to be exhausted for Federal habeas purposes.

But what the prisoner must say to the state courts to tell them he is raising a Federal claim continues to be a... a troubled area of Federal habeas law.

It is one that has divided the circuits and is producing very different analyses and results.

Some cases are holding that the prisoner must make some explicit citation or reference to the Federal source of his claim.

Some cases are holding that a Federal claim has been fairly presented even when... even though what the prisoner is saying to the state courts could as... as... as reasonably be interpreted as stating a state law claim.

And some courts have held that a Federal claim is fairly presented even when the statement of the claim is clearly a claim under state law only.

This continuing... and in this... in this case--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, we're reviewing a Ninth Circuit holding, which seems fairly open-ended.

How would you characterize the Ninth Circuit rule?

Hardy Myers:

--Your Honor, I was about to describe it is a transformation of the responsibility of the state prisoner to present his claim, a transformation of that into a responsibility of the... of the state court... state courts to, in effect, step into the shoes of the state prisoner and complete or try to complete an incompletely presented claim.

This... this overall division among the circuits and this case from the Ninth Circuit, we think, Your Honors, illustrates or confirms very strongly the need for further clarification by this Court as to exactly what must be said by--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, do you agree with your opponents here on at least some of the ground rules that would suffice?

I mean, is it enough to cite a Federal constitutional provision or a Federal statute or other provision describing the right as Federal?

You're both in agreement that would do?

Hardy Myers:


We believe that is so, so long as--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

How about if you cite at least a... a reported case that has decided the claim on a Federal basis?

You make your claim and cite a case that--

Hardy Myers:


Sandra Day O'Connor:

--clearly has decided the claim on a Federal basis.

Is that... you're both in agreement that would do?

Hardy Myers:

--Yes, Your Honors, so--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And what if a... a claim is spelled out that necessarily must be based on a Federal right to exist at all?

Hardy Myers:

--Yes, Your Honor, that is part of the test that we propose--

Antonin Scalia:

Why yes?

I don't understand that.

I mean, why is it necessarily a Federal claim?