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SCOTUS may restrict federal habeas “safety valve”

Jones v. Hendrix, USSC No. 21-857; cert. granted 5/16/22; Scotusblog page (containing links to briefs and commentary)

Question presented:

The question presented is whether federal inmates who did not—because established circuit precedent stood firmly against them—challenge their convictions on the ground that the statute of conviction did not criminalize their activity may apply for habeas relief under § 2241 after this Court later makes clear in a retroactively applicable decision that the circuit precedent was wrong and that they are legally innocent of the crime of conviction

As you can see from the QP, this case concerns only those with federal convictions; its outcome shouldn’t affect the remedies available to state petitioners seeking habeas under § 2254. It specifically concerns federal inmates filing a second or successive petition alleging that their crimes of conviction are invalid because of a SCOTUS decision after an earlier petition changed the circuit interpretation of relevant federal statute. But the grant is probably bad news, because the Court seems intent on hobbling habeas as a means to challenge convictions–even in cases of actual innocence.

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