Evans v. Chavis - Oral Argument - November 09, 2005

Evans v. Chavis

Media for Evans v. Chavis

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 10, 2006 in Evans v. Chavis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 2005 in Evans v. Chavis

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument next in Evans versus Chavis.

Ms. Chatman.

Catherine Baker Chatman:

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

The Ninth Circuit decision in the court below was wrong, for three reasons.

It adopted a rule that frustrates Congress's intent to protect Federal Courts from hearing stale claims and to respect the finality of State Court convictions.

It does so by improperly and arbitrarily adopting a conclusive presumption that misunderstands or ignores State law and practice.

And it is inconsistent with this Court's decision in Carey versus Saffold.

If the Federal Courts, on the other hand, complete their analysis of the Federal question of tolling the AEDPA statute of limitations by deciding whether a State petition was timely before granting tolling, it can properly dismiss more Federal petitions on statute of limitations grounds and can avoid litigating stale claims on the merits.

Any difficulties in doing so can be ameliorated by the limited nature of the State law inquiry and adoption of a 60-day presumption of timeliness.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But that's something... where would we... we would just pick that number, that--

Catherine Baker Chatman:

The 60 days?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:


Catherine Baker Chatman:

Well, Justice Ginsburg, when California does look to timeliness in proceeding from one lower court to a higher court, then we see that it contemplates that a... that a litigant will proceed in 60 days or less, because... and the reason we have to turn to analogies is because nothing in California law requires the appellate courts in State habeas to look to that particular period of time between the lower court decision and proceeding to that court, because they're courts of original jurisdiction.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Because that's a normal appeal period?

Catherine Baker Chatman:

So, they look at how long the prisoner proceeded from conviction to their court, as a whole.

But the reason that we need to figure out this period is because this Court, in Carey versus Saffold, has said that our system functions enough like an appellate system to bring those periods into the tolling provision.

So, when--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

--the... can't the California courts adopt a... give us a 60-day rule, or a 30-day rule, or a 90-day rule?

Well, can't--

Catherine Baker Chatman:

--we look--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And if they don't do it, why should we do it?

Catherine Baker Chatman:

--Up to this point, they have not done so.

And I think that is because, as I said, they are looking at the time from conviction.

How long did it take the prisoner to get to their court with their claims?

And how... and how long they take properly proceeding up the ladder through the courts is just one factor that they look at.

And they--

Stephen G. Breyer:

I don't know how this came about.

I mean... I mean, I'm asking both sides the same question.

It'll sound very favorable to you, but if you answer it just yes, because it's favorable to you, I might learn, later, I was wrong, and you won't have had a chance to answer.

So, I want your honest opinion on this.