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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide if Sullivan & Cromwell’s Mailroom Mix-Up Bars Capital Appeal

Posted Mar 21, 2011 2:44 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a mailroom mix-up at Sullivan & Cromwell that resulted in a missed deadline bars the habeas appeal of a death row inmate.

The court granted cert today in Maples v. Allen, the Associated Press reports. Former Solicitor General Gregory Garre of Latham & Watkins filed the cert petition (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog).

At issue is whether Cory Maples can file a habeas appeal alleging ineffective assistance of counsel even though Sullivan & Cromwell failed to appeal an adverse ruling within the 42-day deadline.

The law firm’s error was set in motion after two associates representing Maples pro bono left Sullivan & Cromwell. An Alabama court sent the firm copies of a ruling denying post-conviction relief, but addressed the correspondence to the departed lawyers.

The mailroom returned the unopened mail to the court clerk along with a note, “Return to Sender—Left Firm.”

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