Monday, May 15, 2006

Supreme Court to decide retroactivity of Crawford

The Supreme Court granted cert today in Whorton v. Bockting, No. 05-595, thus agreeing to review the decision of the Ninth Circuit that Crawford applies retroactively to habeas cases. In one sense, this is utterly unsurprising, because the conflict between the Ninth Circuit, on the one hand, and other circuits is very clear. But the Court conferred on the case in January, issued no decision, and then held it without another conference until last Thursday. I had thought maybe the Court was holding the case because it thought the decisions in Davis and Hammon might bear on it, but if that were so one would not expect a decision now. So what's up? An explanation, which seems plausible, offered to me by one knowledgeable Corut-watcher is that there were four but not five votes for summary reversal, and the Court was waiting to see whether the new justice would make five. When the answer was no, the Court had to grant cert.

As I understand it, it is possible the Court may decide the case under a threshold issue, not specific to the Confrontation Clause, that AEDPA severely restricts the retroactive application of Supreme Court decisions in habeas cases.

Comments on any aspect of this case?