Death Penalty

Fast-track death-penalty appeals get a boost with 9th Circuit standing decision

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Justice Department regulations that would allow states to certify capital cases for fast-track habeas appeals can’t be challenged by two organizations that represent death-row inmates, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Fast-track appeals are a step closer as a result of the March 23 appellate decision, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. The Associated Press also has a story, while the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation issued this press release.

The decision (PDF) by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge’s decision blocking the Justice Department’s fast-track regulations.

The U.S. Justice Department adopted the final regulations in 2013 under a federal law that allows states to speed up federal death-penalty habeas appeals as long as they offer competent counsel to indigent capital prisoners in state post-conviction proceedings.

The time for filing fast-track habeas appeals in federal courts is shortened from one year to six months under the law. Federal courts have to give priority status to such cases and must resolve them within specified time periods. States participating in the fast-track procedure have to be certified by the U.S. Attorney General.

The 9th Circuit ruled that the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and the Office of the Federal Public for the District of Arizona did not have standing to challenge the Justice Department regulations because the groups weren’t injured. The appeals court also said challenges to the procedures are not ripe for review because the Attorney General has not yet made any certification decisions.

Marc Shapiro, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told AP and the Wall Street Journal that he will seek en banc review.

The case is Habeas Corpus Resource Center v. Department of Justice.

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