Martinez v. Ryan

PETITIONER:Luis Mariano Martinez
RESPONDENT:Charles L. Ryan, Director, Arizona Department of Corrections
LOCATION:Renaissance Square

DOCKET NO.: 10-1001
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 566 US (2012)
GRANTED: Jun 06, 2011
ARGUED: Oct 04, 2011
DECIDED: Mar 20, 2012

Jeffrey B. Wall – Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent
Kent E. Cattani – for the respondent
Robert D. Bartels – for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Luis Mariano Martinez is serving two consecutive terms of 35 years to life, following his conviction for two counts of sexual conduct with a person under 15. On direct appeal, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed Martinez’ conviction, and the Arizona Supreme Court denied review. Martinez then petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he has a right to the effective assistance of counsel in the first post-conviction relief proceeding in which he could present a claim of ineffective assistance by his trial counsel.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona denied the petition, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that since there is no right to appointment of counsel during a defendant’s post-conviction relief petition there is no right to effective assistance of counsel.


May a defendant in a state criminal case who is prohibited by state law from raising on direct appeal any claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, but who has a state-law right to raise such a claim in a first post-conviction proceeding, establish cause for a procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial by showing ineffective assistance at the initial-review collateral proceeding?

Media for Martinez v. Ryan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 04, 2011 in Martinez v. Ryan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 20, 2012 in Martinez v. Ryan

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Kennedy has the opinion in two cases this morning.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The first case is Martinez versus Ryan, Number 10-1001.

After a criminal conviction in a state court, a prisoner may want to raise constitutional claims in a federal court.

This happens with some frequency, and that occurred here.

Petitioner, Luis Martinez, sought to raise, in a habeas proceeding in federal court, the claim that his counsel was, in effective at the state trial, but federal claims, as a general rule, cannot be raised in a federal habeas court proceeding unless the prisoner has first raised them in state courts.

And if the prisoner has not done so and has not followed settled — settled state procedural rules, then, and this again is a general principle, he is barred from raising them in the federal proceeding and when — and when this happens, the law says that he has procedurally defaulted his claim.

In some circumstances, a default can be excused.

One instance of an excuse is when the prisoner’s counsel was ineffective on direct appeal where the federal claim first should have been raised.

Now, here, the petitioner was convicted in the Arizona state courts.

After that conviction, he did not raise his claim of ineffective assistance at the trial at the first opportunity to do so because he says his first counsel in the state proceedings after trial was also ineffective.

Ordinarily, that would be an excuse for procedural default, but here that procedural default occurred in a state collateral proceeding, not on state direct review.

And since there is, in general, no constitutional right to counsel in collateral proceedings, Arizona now says that there was a procedural default which cannot be excused.

In the federal habeas proceedings, the Federal District Court and the Court of Appeals agreed with Arizona.

The federal courts did not hear the petitioner’s claim on the merits and the case comes to us on appeal on — on certiorari for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In the case now before the Court, the petitioner says that well, this might have been a correct ruling under other States’ systems, here, the Arizona rules did not allow him to raise a claim of ineffective assistance at trial until the state collateral proceedings.

That was the first time he could make the claim whereas here, the collateral proceeding is the first designated proceeding for a prisoner to raise a claim of — of ineffective assistance at trial.

The collateral proceeding is in many ways, the equivalent of a prisoner’s direct appeal on the effective assistance issue.

And so, petitioner says, “If his counsel was ineffective during the first state proceeding when the federal claim could have been raised, the procedural default is excused.”

For the reasons set forth at some length in today’s opinion, the Court agrees with the petitioner.

The Court finds that the procedural default is excused under equitable principles that inform the procedural default rule.

The Court’s holding need not and does not rest on constitutional grounds.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Thomas has joined.