Arizona Opts in to Expedited Habeas Proceedings

One of CHU’s primary responsibilities is representing Arizona capital defendants in federal habeas corpus proceedings. Habeas corpus allows defendants to challenge a conviction or sentence when it violates the United States Constitution. Habeas corpus petitions must comply with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), a complex body of federal law that says how and when defendants must file their petitions, what issues they may raise, and the standard of proof they must meet to obtain relief. Generally speaking, Arizona defendants have one year to file their petitions, beginning on the date the Arizona Supreme Court denies their post-conviction petition for review.

When Congress passed the AEDPA in 1996, it included a section that allowed states to “opt-in” to stricter habeas rules by meeting certain requirements. For a state to qualify for opt-in status, the U.S. Department of Justice must certify that the state’s post-conviction rules guarantee that defendants have timely appointed, adequately compensated post-conviction attorneys, as well as reasonable funds for those attorneys to investigate and litigate the defendants’ cases. Under opt-in habeas rules, defendants would have half as much time to file their petitions, and those petitions would be subject to stricter procedural rules that may make it harder to obtain relief for constitutional violations that occurred in state court.

For the past several years, Arizona has been trying to qualify for these opt-in provisions. In 2013, the Arizona Attorney General asked the Department of Justice to certify Arizona as an opt-in state. CHU opposed that request, submitting 163-page document outlining the many ways Arizona’s post-conviction rules do not satisfy the opt-in requirements or protect defendant's constitutional rights.

Arizona is currently the only state with expedited habeas proceedings