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Harrington v. Richter

Supreme Court of the United States

October 12, 2010, Argued; January 19, 2011, Decided

No. 09-587


 [*91]  Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

The writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard against imprisonment of those held in violation of the law.  [****12] Judges must be vigilant and independent in reviewing petitions for the writ, a commitment that entails substantial judicial resources. Those resources are diminished and misspent, however, and confidence in the writ and the law it vindicates  [*92]  undermined, if there is judicial disregard for the sound and established principles that inform its proper issuance. That judicial disregard is inherent in the opinion of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit here under review. The Court of Appeals, in disagreement with the contrary conclusions of the Supreme Court of the State of California and of a United States District Court, ordered habeas corpus relief granted to set aside the conviction of Joshua Richter, respondent here. This was clear error.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the availability of federal habeas relief is limited with respect to claims previously “adjudicated on the merits” in state-court proceedings. The first inquiry this case presents is whether that provision applies when state-court relief is denied without an accompanying statement of reasons. If it does, the question is whether the Court of Appeals adhered to the statute's terms, in this case as it relates to ineffective-assistance  [****13] claims judged by the standard set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674 (1984). A second case decided today, Premo v. Moore, post, p. ___, 562 U.S. 115, 131 S. Ct. 733, 178 L. Ed. 2d 649, presents similar issues. Here, as in that case, it is [**781]   [***635] necessary to reverse the Court of Appeals for failing to accord required deference to the decision of a state court.

It is necessary to begin by discussing the details of a crime committed more than a decade and a half ago.

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562 U.S. 86 *; 131 S. Ct. 770 **; 178 L. Ed. 2d 624 ***; 2011 U.S. LEXIS 912 ****; 79 U.S.L.W. 4030; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 753


Subsequent History: On remand at Richter v. Harrington, 643 F.3d 1238, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 14157 (9th Cir., July 11, 2011)


Richter v. Hickman, 578 F.3d 944, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 17821 (9th Cir. Cal., 2009)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


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Criminal Law & Procedure, Jurisdiction, Cognizable Issues, Threshold Requirements, Habeas Corpus, General Overview, Standards of Review, Contrary & Unreasonable Standard, Review, Deference, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Specific Claims, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Unreasonable Application, Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Tests for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel