Burton v. Stewart

PETITIONER: Lonnie Lee Burton
RESPONDENT: Belinda Stewart, Superintendent, Stafford Creek Corrections Center
LOCATION: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 05-9222
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 549 US 147 (2007)
GRANTED: Jun 05, 2006
ARGUED: Nov 07, 2006
DECIDED: Jan 09, 2007

Jeffrey L. Fisher - argued the cause for Petitioner
Matthew D. Roberts - argued the cause for Respondent
William B. Collins - argued the cause for Respondent

Facts of the case

Burton was convicted of burglary, robbery, and rape. Under the standard state sentencing guidelines, the burglary and robbery alone warranted the maximum sentence for a single criminal event. In order to make sure the rape was punished as well, the trial judge added a consecutive sentence for the rape to the standard sentence.

Burton filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his sentence in federal court. He argued that under Blakely v. Washington, handed down after his conviction, the jury rather than the judge should have decided whether to add the extra sentence. The government argued that the holding in Blakely was a "new rule." Under the Court's decision in Teague v. Lane, new rules of criminal procedure do not apply retroactively. Burton countered that the relevant rule was actually established in Apprendi v. New Jersey, a decision handed down before his conviction became final. Burton also argued that even if Blakely is a new rule, it is essential for a fair trial. New rules that are essential for the fundamental fairness of trials can apply retroactively.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Burton. The Appeals Court held that Blakely was a new rule, so it could not be used by Burton in his appeal.


1) Is the holding in Blakely v. Washington a new rule or was it dictated by Apprendi v. New Jersey?

2) If Blakely is a new rule, does its requirement that facts resulting in an enhanced statutory maximum be proved before a jury apply retroactively?

Media for Burton v. Stewart

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 2006 in Burton v. Stewart

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 09, 2007 in Burton v. Stewart

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Today we also decide case No. 05-9222 Burton v. Stuart in a Per Curiam opinion.

We granted certiorari in this case to determine whether our decision in 2004 in Blakely v. Washington announced a new rule and if so, whether it applies retroactively to prisoners seeking Federal Habeas Relief.

We do not answer these questions however because we conclude that the petition in this case is a second or successive petition under the Federal Habeas Statute.

The petition challenges the same custody imposed by the same judgment as an earlier petition.

The Federal Habeas Statute requires a prisoner who wishes to file such a second or successive petition in District Court to first authorization from the Federal Court of Appeals.

The petitioner here did not seek, much less obtained this authorization.

Accordingly under the Federal Habeas Statute the District Court could not entertain the petition.

We therefore vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand with instructions to direct the District Court to dismiss the Habeas Petition for lack of jurisdiction.

Our Per Curiam opinion is unanimous.