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Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996: Wikis


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The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, (also known as AEDPA) is an Act of Congress signed into law on April 24, 1996 to "deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes." The bill was introduced as part of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, passed with broad bipartisan support by Congress (91-8-1 in the United States Senate, 293-133-7 in the House of Representatives) following the Oklahoma City bombing, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.[1][2]

The AEDPA had a tremendous impact on the law of habeas corpus in the United States. One provision of the AEDPA limits the power of federal judges to grant relief unless the state court's adjudication of the claim resulted in a decision that was

  1. contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
  2. based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.

While critics have charged that this limitation effectively forecloses the power of federal courts to remedy unjust convictions, federal judges have found ways to grant relief to prisoners in habeas cases despite the limitation.

Other provisions of the AEDPA created entirely new statutory law. For example, before AEDPA the judicially created abuse-of-the-writ doctrine restricted the presentation of new claims through subsequent habeas petitions. The AEDPA replaced this doctrine with an absolute bar on second or successive petitions. Petitioners who attempted to bring claims in federal habeas proceedings that have already been decided in a previous habeas petition would find those claims barred. Petitioners who had already filed a federal habeas petition were required to first secure authorization from the appropriate federal court of appeals. Furthermore, AEDPA took away from the Supreme Court the power to review a court of appeals's denial of that permission, thus placing final authority for the filing of second petitions in the hands of the federal courts of appeals.

In addition to the modifications that pertain to all habeas cases, AEDPA enacted special review provisions for capital cases from states that enacted quality controls for the performance of counsel in the state courts in the post-conviction phase in state court. States that enacted these quality controls would see strict time limitations enforced against their death-row inmates in federal habeas proceedings coupled with extremely deferential review to the determinations of their courts regarding issues of federal law. As of yet, only Arizona has qualified for these additional provisions, yet it has not been able to take advantage of them because it has not followed its own quality control procedures. More states may qualify for these additional provisions in the future because in 2005 Congress took the power to determine whether a state had qualified away from the federal courts and gave it to the Attorney General.

Soon after it was enacted, AEDPA endured a critical test in the Supreme Court. The basis of the challenge was that the provisions limiting the ability of persons to file successive habeas petitions violated Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, the Suspension Clause. The Supreme Court held unanimously in Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651 (1997), that these limitations did not unconstitutionally suspend the writ.

In 2005, the Ninth Circuit indicated that it was willing to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of AEDPA on separation of powers grounds under City of Boerne v. Flores and Marbury v. Madison,[3] but has since decided that the issue was foreclosed by circuit precedent.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Lundin, Leigh (2009-06-28). "Dark Justice". Criminal Brief.  
  2. ^ Holland, Joshua (2009-04-01). "A Tale of Two Justice Systems". AlterNet. Prison Legal News. Retrieved 2009-06-29.  
  3. ^ "Is AEDPA Unconstitutional," from SCOTUSblog
  4. ^ Orin Kerr, "What Happened to Irons v. Carey?",, June 21, 2006.

External links



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