Listen & Download

Ronald EisenbergOn November 5, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Burt v. Titlow. This case involves an appeal by the State of Michigan from a federal grant of habeas relief to a state prisoner. The question is whether a federal appellate court, the Sixth Circuit, erred in granting habeas relief to a prisoner on the grounds that she was denied effective assistance of counsel when her attorney allowed her to withdraw a manslaughter plea and maintain a claim of innocence, with the result that she was convicted of second-degree murder, a more serious crime.

By a vote of 9-0, the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit. In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court held that the Sixth Circuit failed to apply the "doubly deferential" standard of review recognized by the Court's case law when it refused to credit a lower state court's reasonable factual finding and assumed that counsel was ineffective where the record was silent. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Alito's opinion. Justice Sotomayor also filed a concurring opinion and Justice Ginsburg concurred in the judgment only.

To discuss the case, we have Ron Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

[Return to the SCOTUScast menu