On January 10, 2012, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Gonzalez v. Thaler. This case presents two questions arising under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The first is whether a judge’s failure, when issuing a certificate of appealability under AEDPA, to “indicate” the constitutional issue that a state prisoner has raised deprives a court of subject-matter jurisdiction to hear that prisoner’s habeas appeal. The second question involves how to determine when a judgment became “final” for purposes of calculating the one-year limit that state prisoners have in which to file a federal habeas petition.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held by a vote of 8-1 that (1) a judge’s failure to “indicate” the requisite constitutional issue raised by a state prisoner does not deprive a court of appeals of jurisdiction to hear a state prisoner’s habeas appeal, and (2) for a state prisoner who does not seek review in the state’s highest court, judgment becomes final on the date that the time for seeking such review expires. On that basis, the Court affirmed the decision of the lower court that the state prisoner’s federal habeas petition was time-barred. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Ozan Varol, who is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.