Kernan v. Hinojosa

PETITIONER: Scott Kernan, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
RESPONDENT: Antonio A. Hinojosa
LOCATION: Orange County Superior Court

DOCKET NO.: 15-833
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2016- )
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 578 US (2016)
GRANTED: May 16, 2016
DECIDED: May 16, 2016

Facts of the case

In 2009, while Antonio Hinojosa was serving a 16-year sentence for armed robbery and related crimes, prison officials determined that he was a prison-gang associate and placed him in a secured housing unit. At that time, California law allowed prisoners placed in a secured housing unit solely because of prison-gang affiliation could continue to accrue good-time credits. In 2010, the California Legislature amended the law so that, while prisoners in secured housing units could retain whatever good-time credits they had upon entry, they could no longer accrue good-time credits while in the unit. Hinojosa filed a state habeas petition and argued that the amended law’s application to him violated the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution. The state court denied the claim because Hinojosa did not file it in the court for the county in which he was incarcerated. Hinojosa sought review by the appellate court and then the state supreme court, both of which denied his petition. Hinojosa then sought federal habeas relief. The district court denied relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which establishes a deferential standard of review of state denials of habeas, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The appellate court held that, because the initial state court denial was not based on the merits, the AEDPA did not apply.


Does the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s deferential standard of review of state habeas decisions apply when the decision to deny habeas in state court was not made on the merits of the case?