Beard v. Kindler , 558 U.S. 53 ( 2009 )


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  • (Slip Opinion)              OCTOBER TERM, 2009                                       1
    
                                           Syllabus
    
             NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
           being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
           The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
           prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
           See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 
    200 U.S. 321
    , 337.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    
                                           Syllabus
    
    BEARD, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT
           OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL. v. KINDLER
    
    CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
                      THE THIRD CIRCUIT
    
      No. 08–992.      Argued November 2, 2009—Decided December 8, 2009
    Respondent Kindler was convicted of capital murder in Pennsylvania
      state court, and the jury recommended a death sentence. Kindler
      filed postverdict motions challenging his conviction and sentence, but
      before the trial court could consider the motions or the jury’s death
      recommendation, Kindler escaped and fled to Canada. The state trial
      court subsequently dismissed Kindler’s postverdict motions because
      of his escape. Canadian authorities ultimately captured Kindler and
      held him in jail pending extradition. But before Kindler could be
      transferred from Canadian custody, he escaped again, this time re
      maining at large for more than two years. He was eventually recap
      tured and transferred to the United States. Once back in this coun
      try, Kindler sought to reinstate his postverdict motions, but the trial
      court denied relief, holding that the judge who had dismissed the mo
      tions had not abused his discretion under Pennsylvania’s fugitive for
      feiture law. Kindler argued on direct appeal that the trial court
      erred in declining to address the merits of his postverdict motions,
      but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed. Kindler’s claims
      were rejected on state habeas, and he sought federal habeas relief.
      Under the adequate state ground doctrine, a federal habeas court will
      not review a claim rejected by a state court “if the decision of [the
      state] court rests on a state law ground that is independent of the
      federal question and adequate to support the judgment.” Coleman v.
      Thompson, 
    501 U.S. 722
    , 729. The District Court nonetheless
      granted Kindler’s habeas petition, determining that the state fugitive
      forfeiture rule did not provide an adequate basis to bar federal review
      of Kindler’s habeas claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, and the
      Commonwealth petitioned for certiorari. It argued that the Third
    2                         BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                                    Syllabus
    
        Circuit had held the state fugitive forfeiture rule automatically in
        adequate because the state courts had discretion in applying it, and
        the Commonwealth sought review of that holding. The Court
        granted that petition.
    Held: A state procedural rule is not automatically “inadequate” under
     the adequate state ground doctrine—and therefore unenforceable on
     federal habeas review—because the state rule is discretionary rather
     than mandatory. The question whether a state procedural ruling is
     adequate is itself a question of federal law. Lee v. Kemna, 
    534 U.S. 362
    , 375. This Court has framed the adequacy inquiry by asking
     whether the state rule was “firmly established and regularly fol
     lowed.” Id., at 376. A discretionary state procedural rule can serve
     as an adequate ground to bar federal habeas review even if the ap
     propriate exercise of discretion may permit consideration of a federal
     claim in some cases but not others. A contrary holding would pose an
     unnecessary dilemma for the States: They could preserve flexibility
     by granting courts discretion to excuse procedural errors, but only at
     the cost of undermining the finality of state-court judgments. Or
     States could preserve the finality of their judgments by withholding
     such discretion, but only at the cost of precluding any flexibility in
     applying the rules. If forced to choose, many States would opt for
     mandatory rules to avoid the high costs of plenary federal review.
     That would be unfortunate in many cases, as discretionary rules are
     often desirable. The federal system, for example, often grants the
     trial judge broad discretion when his ringside perspective at the main
     event offers him a comparative advantage in decisionmaking. The
     States have followed suit. Given the federalism and comity concerns
     motivating the adequate state ground doctrine in the habeas context,
     see Coleman, supra, at 730, this Court should not disregard discre
     tionary state procedural rules that are in place in nearly every State
     and are substantially similar to those given full force in federal
     courts. Cf. Francis v. Henderson, 
    425 U.S. 536
    , 541–542. Pp. 7–9.
    
    542 F.3d 70
    , vacated and remanded.
    
      ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other
    Members joined, except ALITO, J., who took no part in the consideration
    or decision of the case. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion, in
    which THOMAS, J., joined.
                            Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)                              1
    
                                 Opinion of the Court
    
         NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
         preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
         notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash
         ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
         that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                                       _________________
    
                                       No. 08–992
                                       _________________
    
    
     JEFFREY A. BEARD, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA
    
         DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.,
    
          PETITIONERS v. JOSEPH J. KINDLER 
    
     ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
    
                APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
    
                                  [December 8, 2009] 
    
    
       CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the
    Court.
       A federal habeas court will not review a claim rejected
    by a state court “if the decision of [the state] court rests on
    a state law ground that is independent of the federal
    question and adequate to support the judgment.” Cole
    man v. Thompson, 
    501 U.S. 722
    , 729 (1991). We granted
    certiorari to decide the following question: “Is a state
    procedural rule automatically ‘inadequate’ under the
    adequate-state-grounds doctrine—and therefore unen
    forceable on federal habeas corpus review—because the
    state rule is discretionary rather than mandatory?” Pet.
    for Cert. i. Petitioners argue the correct answer is “no.”
    At oral argument, respondent—consistent with his posi
    tion below—expressly agreed. We do too, and accordingly
    vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
                              I
      In 1982, Joseph Kindler, along with Scott Shaw and
    David Bernstein, burglarized a music store in Bucks
    County, Pennsylvania. Police stopped the getaway car
    2                   BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    and arrested Shaw and Bernstein. In a harbinger of
    things to come, Kindler escaped. Commonwealth v. Kin
    dler, 
    536 Pa. 228
    , 236, 
    639 A.2d 1
    , 5, cert. denied, 
    513 U.S. 933
     (1994).
      Police later arrested Kindler and charged him with
    burglary. He was released on bail. Bernstein agreed to
    testify against Kindler, but Kindler had other plans. At
    about 2:30 a.m. on July 25, 1982, Kindler and Shaw at
    tacked Bernstein outside his apartment. Kindler beat
    Bernstein with a baseball bat approximately 20 times, and
    Shaw shocked Bernstein 5 times with an electric prod.
    Bernstein at that point was still alive but unable to move,
    and Kindler and Shaw dragged their victim to their
    nearby car, loaded him in the trunk, and drove to the
    Delaware River. At the river, Kindler tied a cinder block
    around Bernstein’s neck and dumped him in the water. A
    forensic examiner later determined that Bernstein died of
    drowning and massive head injuries. 536 Pa., at 236–239,
    
    639 A. 2d
    , at 5–6.
      Kindler was brought to trial and convicted of capital
    murder. The jury recommended a death sentence, and
    Kindler filed postverdict motions. Id., at 230–231, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 2.
      But on September 19, 1984, before the trial court could
    consider the motions or the jury’s death recommendation,
    Kindler escaped. Ibid. In an organized effort to saw
    through the external prison bars with smuggled tools,
    Kindler broke out of the maximum-security wing of the
    prison and headed for Canada. See Commonwealth v.
    Kindler, 
    554 Pa. 513
    , 517–518, and n. 4, 
    722 A.2d 143
    ,
    145, and n. 4 (1998).
      Kindler remained a fugitive in Canada until April 26,
    1985, when he was arrested in Quebec for separate bur
    glary offenses. The United States sought Kindler’s return,
    but an extradition treaty allowed Canada to refuse to
    hand over anyone likely to face execution. See Kindler v.
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)           3
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    Canada (Minister of Justice), [1991] 2 S. C. R. 779.
      Kindler turned into something of a local celebrity. He
    even appeared on Canadian television, explaining, among
    other things, how he had escaped and why he chose Can
    ada: “I knew there was no death penalty here.” CTV
    National News: Joseph Kindler’s Fate Unresolved (Cana
    dian television broadcast Sept. 22, 1985) (videos available
    in Clerk of Court’s case file). Canadian authorities ulti
    mately acquiesced to overtures from the United States and
    agreed to extradite Kindler. Kindler, supra, at 231, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 2.
      But before Kindler could be transferred from Canadian
    custody, he escaped again. On the night of October 23,
    1986, Kindler broke through a skylight on the 13th floor of
    the jail (his fellow inmates had hoisted him up to the
    skylight 15 feet above the floor) and escaped to the roof,
    where he stood 175 feet above ground. Armed with 13
    stories’ worth of bedsheets tied together, Kindler safely
    rappelled down the side of the jail. (A fellow escapee was
    not as lucky—the sheets ripped on his way down, causing
    him to fall 50 feet to his death.) Kindler, 554 Pa., at 517–
    519, 
    722 A. 2d
    , at 145.
      This time, Kindler remained on the lam for more than
    two years, until he was featured on the popular television
    show, “America’s Most Wanted.” Characterizing Kindler
    as “an above average criminal” and “a chess player who
    understands when to make his move,” the show asked
    viewers for information to help capture him. America’s
    Most Wanted, Sept. 4, 1988, Season 1, Episode 30, at
    10:01. Several viewers recognized Kindler and notified
    Canadian authorities, who arrested him in September
    1988. 554 Pa., at 519, 
    722 A. 2d
    , at 145.
      Kindler again fought extradition. On September 16,
    1991, after three years of litigation, the Supreme Court of
    Canada rejected Kindler’s efforts. See Kindler, 2 S. C. R.
    779. That same day, Canadian officials extradited Kindler
    4                    BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    to the United States. Kindler v. Horn, 
    291 F. Supp. 2d 323
    , 334 (ED Pa. 2003).
       In the meantime, in 1984, the Pennsylvania trial court
    had dismissed Kindler’s postverdict motions because of his
    original escape. Once back in the United States, Kindler
    filed a motion to reinstate those challenges to his convic
    tion and sentence. The trial court denied the reinstate
    ment motion, holding that the trial court judge who had
    dismissed the postverdict motions in 1984 had not abused
    his discretion. In October 1991—more than seven years
    after the jury’s death recommendation—the court formally
    imposed the death sentence. Commonwealth v. Kindler,
    No. 2747 etc. (Pa. Ct. Common Pleas, Feb. 28, 1992), App.
    66–70.
       Kindler appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in
    declining to address the merits of his postverdict motions.
    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed. Kindler, 536
    Pa., at 232–234, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 3. That court recognized
    that “trial courts, when faced with a defendant in fugitive
    status, . . . have every right to fashion an appropriate
    response[,] which can include the dismissal of pending
    post-verdict motions.” Id., at 233, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 3. The
    court then determined that the trial court’s decision to
    dismiss Kindler’s claims fell within its authority: The
    “dismiss[al] [of] the post-verdict motions was a reasonable
    response to Appellant’s ‘flouting’ of the authority of the
    court.” Id., at 233–234, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 3. Under Pennsyl
    vania’s fugitive forfeiture law, the court concluded, Kin
    dler’s case therefore came to it “without any allegations of
    error (direct or collateral) preserved.” Id., at 234, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 4.
       The Pennsylvania Supreme Court nonetheless con
    ducted the “limited review” mandated for death sentences
    under Pennsylvania law. Under that review, the court
    was required to confirm that the evidence was sufficient to
    support the conviction of first-degree murder and at least
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            5
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    one aggravating factor, and that the sentence was not
    excessive, disproportionate, or the product of passion or
    prejudice. Id., at 234–235, 
    639 A. 2d
    , at 4. Satisfied that
    Kindler’s conviction met these standards, the court af
    firmed his conviction and sentence. We denied certiorari.
    Kindler v. Pennsylvania, 
    513 U.S. 933
     (1994).
       On state habeas, the Court of Common Pleas rejected
    Kindler’s claims. That court held that the Pennsylvania
    Supreme Court had already ruled that Kindler’s escape
    forfeited all claims challenging his conviction and sentence
    that Kindler may once have been entitled to bring. Com
    monwealth v. Kindler, No. 2747 etc. (July 23, 1997), App.
    183, 187–188. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed.
    Kindler, 554 Pa., at 514, 
    722 A. 2d
    , at 143.
       Kindler then sought federal habeas relief. The District
    Court determined that the fugitive forfeiture rule did not
    provide an adequate basis to bar federal review of Kin
    dler’s habeas claims. 
    291 F. Supp. 2d
    , at 340–343. The
    District Court then proceeded to address the merits,
    granting Kindler’s petition on the grounds that he was
    sentenced based on jury instructions that were unconsti
    tutional under Mills v. Maryland, 
    486 U.S. 367
     (1988),
    and that the prosecutor improperly introduced an aggra
    vating factor at sentencing. 
    291 F. Supp. 2d
    , at 346–351,
    357–358. The court rejected Kindler’s ineffective assis
    tance of counsel claim. Id., at 356.
       The Third Circuit affirmed. That court began by recog
    nizing that “[a] procedural rule that is consistently applied
    in the vast majority of cases is adequate to bar federal
    habeas review even if state courts are willing to occasion
    ally overlook it and review the merits of a claim for relief
    where the rule would otherwise apply.” Kindler v. Horn,
    
    542 F.3d 70
    , 79 (2008). The Court of Appeals then con
    sidered the Pennsylvania fugitive forfeiture rule in place
    at the time of Kindler’s first escape: “Pennsylvania courts
    had discretion to hear an appeal filed by a fugitive who
    6                    BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    had been returned to custody before an appeal was initi
    ated or dismissed. . . . Accordingly, the fugitive forfeiture
    rule was not ‘firmly established’ and therefore was not an
    independent and adequate procedural rule sufficient to
    bar review of the merits of a habeas petition in federal
    court.” Ibid. (citing Doctor v. Walters, 
    96 F.3d 675
    , 684–
    686 (CA3 1996)). The court thus determined that “the
    state trial court still had discretion to reinstate his post
    verdict motions. Accordingly, we conclude that, under
    Doctor, Pennsylvania’s fugitive waiver law did not pre
    clude the district court from reviewing the merits of the
    claims raised in Kindler’s habeas petition.” 
    542 F. 3d
    , at
    80. Turning to the merits, the Court of Appeals disagreed
    with the District Court on the improper aggravating factor
    claim, but held that Kindler was entitled to relief based on
    his Mills and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. 
    542 F. 3d
    , at 80–87.
       The Commonwealth petitioned for certiorari, arguing
    that the Court of Appeals’ determination that state discre
    tionary rules are automatically inadequate conflicted with
    the holdings of other Courts of Appeals and warranted
    this Court’s review. Pet. for Cert. 6–11. Kindler coun
    tered that the Commonwealth had mischaracterized the
    Third Circuit’s holding. Relying on the court’s citation of
    the Doctor opinion, Kindler argued that the Third Circuit
    did not hold that discretionary state rules are automati
    cally inadequate; rather the court determined that the
    state courts applied “a new and different rule from that in
    existence at the time of the alleged default.” Brief in
    Opposition 3. It was that new rule, Kindler maintained,
    that the Third Circuit found inadequate. Ibid.
       We granted the Commonwealth’s petition for certiorari.
    556 U. S. ___ (2009). That petition asks us to decide
    whether discretionary procedural rulings are automati
    cally inadequate to bar federal court review on habeas.
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009) 
              7
    
                         Opinion of the Court 
    
    
                                   II 
    
        The question whether a state procedural ruling is ade
    quate is itself a question of federal law. Lee v. Kemna, 
    534 U.S. 362
    , 375 (2002). We have framed the adequacy
    inquiry by asking whether the state rule in question was
    “ ‘firmly established and regularly followed.’ ” Id., at 376
    (quoting James v. Kentucky, 
    466 U.S. 341
    , 348 (1984)).
        We hold that a discretionary state procedural rule can
    serve as an adequate ground to bar federal habeas review.
    Nothing inherent in such a rule renders it inadequate for
    purposes of the adequate state ground doctrine. To the
    contrary, a discretionary rule can be “firmly established”
    and “regularly followed”—even if the appropriate exercise
    of discretion may permit consideration of a federal claim
    in some cases but not others. See Meltzer, State Court
    Forfeitures of Federal Rights, 99 Harv. L. Rev. 1128, 1140
    (1986) (“[R]efusals to exercise discretion do not form an
    important independent category under the inadequate
    state ground doctrine”).
        A contrary holding would pose an unnecessary dilemma
    for the States: States could preserve flexibility by granting
    courts discretion to excuse procedural errors, but only at
    the cost of undermining the finality of state court judg
    ments. Or States could preserve the finality of their
    judgments by withholding such discretion, but only at the
    cost of precluding any flexibility in applying the rules.
        We are told that, if forced to choose, many States would
    opt for mandatory rules to avoid the high costs that come
    with plenary federal review. See, e.g., Brief for State of
    California et al. as Amici Curiae 19; Brief for Criminal
    Justice Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae 14. That
    would be unfortunate in many cases, as discretionary
    rules are often desirable. In some circumstances, for
    example, the factors facing trial courts “are so numerous,
    variable and subtle that the fashioning of rigid rules
    would be more likely to impair [the trial judge’s] ability to
    8                    BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    deal fairly with a particular problem than to lead to a just
    result.” United States v. McCoy, 
    517 F.2d 41
    , 44 (CA7)
    (Stevens, J.), cert. denied, 
    423 U.S. 895
     (1975); see also
    Friendly, Indiscretion About Discretion, 31 Emory L. J.
    747, 760–761 (1982). The result would be particularly
    unfortunate for criminal defendants, who would lose the
    opportunity to argue that a procedural default should be
    excused through the exercise of judicial discretion. See
    Henry v. Mississippi, 
    379 U.S. 443
    , 463, n. 3 (1965)
    (Harlan, J., dissenting) (“If, in order to insulate its deci
    sions from reversal by this Court, a state court must strip
    itself of the discretionary power to differentiate between
    different sets of circumstances, the [adequate state
    ground] rule operates in a most perverse way”).
       It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the federal system
    often grants broad discretion to the trial judge when his
    ringside perspective at the “ ‘main event’ ” offers him a
    comparative advantage in decisionmaking. Wainwright v.
    Sykes, 
    433 U.S. 72
    , 90 (1977); cf. United States v. Poynter,
    
    495 F.3d 349
    , 351–352 (CA6 2007). The States seem to
    value discretionary rules as much as the Federal Govern
    ment does. See Brief for State of California et al. as Amici
    Curiae 16–17 (citing various state discretionary proce
    dural rules). In light of the federalism and comity con
    cerns that motivate the adequate state ground doctrine in
    the habeas context, see Coleman, 501 U. S., at 730, it
    would seem particularly strange to disregard state proce
    dural rules that are substantially similar to those to which
    we give full force in our own courts. Cf. Francis v. Hen
    derson, 
    425 U.S. 536
    , 541–542 (1976). Even stranger to
    do so with respect to rules in place in nearly every State,
    and all at one fell swoop.
       We take our holding in this case to be uncontroversial—
    so uncontroversial, in fact, that both parties agreed to the
    point before this Court. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 29–31.
    Rather than defending the question on which we granted
                      Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            9
    
                          Opinion of the Court
    
    certiorari—whether discretionary rules are automatically
    inadequate—Kindler argues that the Pennsylvania courts
    did not apply a discretionary rule at all, but instead ap
    plied a new rule mandating dismissal. Such a mandatory
    dismissal, Kindler contends, constituted a break from past
    discretionary practice, and thus does not provide an ade
    quate state ground to bar his federal claims. We leave it
    to the Court of Appeals to address that argument, and any
    others Kindler may have preserved, on remand.
      For its part, the Commonwealth urges us not only to
    reject a per se rule about discretionary rulings, but also to
    undertake “[a] new effort to state a standard for inade
    quacy.” Brief for Petitioners 25. Amici supporting the
    Commonwealth join in that request. See Brief for Crimi
    nal Justice Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae 6–10. We
    decline that invitation as well. The procedural default at
    issue here—escape from prison—is hardly a typical proce
    dural default, making this case an unsuitable vehicle for
    providing broad guidance on the adequate state ground
    doctrine.
      If our holding in this case is narrow, it is because the
    question we granted certiorari to decide is narrow. An
    swering that question is sufficient unto the day.
      The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Third
    Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded for further
    proceedings consistent with this opinion.
                                                 It is so ordered.
    
      JUSTICE ALITO took no part in the consideration or
    decision of this case.
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)           1
    
                       KENNEDY, J., concurring
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                             _________________
    
                              No. 08–992
                             _________________
    
    
     JEFFREY A. BEARD, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA
    
         DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.,
    
          PETITIONERS v. JOSEPH J. KINDLER 
    
     ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
    
                APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
    
                          [December 8, 2009] 
    
    
      JUSTICE KENNEDY, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS joins,
    concurring.
      Due consideration of the phrasing in the question pre
    sented and of the arguments and concessions by counsel
    leads to the conclusion that this case should be vacated
    and remanded, and I join the Court’s opinion. The appar
    ent difficulty the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    found in accepting the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s
    procedural bar conclusion, however, invites this further
    comment.
      The adequate state ground doctrine cannot be applied
    without consideration of the purposes it is designed to
    serve. By refraining from deciding cases that rest on an
    adequate and independent state ground, federal courts
    show proper respect for state courts and avoid rendering
    advisory opinions. Michigan v. Long, 
    463 U.S. 1032
    , 1040
    (1983). The claimed adequate and independent state
    ground at issue in this case is a state procedural rule. We
    have not allowed state courts to bar review of federal
    claims by invoking new procedural rules without adequate
    notice to litigants who, in asserting their federal rights,
    have in good faith complied with existing state procedural
    law. “Novelty in procedural requirements cannot be per
    mitted to thwart review in this Court applied for by those
    2                    BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                        KENNEDY, J., concurring
    
    who, in justified reliance upon prior decisions, seek vindi
    cation in state courts of their federal constitutional
    rights.” NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 
    357 U.S. 449
    , 457–458 (1958). We have also been mindful of the
    danger that novel state procedural requirements will be
    imposed for the purpose of evading compliance with a
    federal standard. See, e.g., NAACP v. Alabama ex rel.
    Flowers, 
    377 U.S. 288
    , 293–302 (1964).
       Neither of these concerns applies here. First, no one
    could seriously entertain the notion that Kindler acted in
    “justified reliance” when he fled beyond the jurisdiction of
    the Pennsylvania courts. Even if a hypothetical escapee
    studiously examined the case law before making an in
    formed decision that flight was worth it, that is not the
    reliance the law should be required to consider. There is
    no justification for an unlawful escape, which “operates as
    an affront to the dignity of [a] court’s proceedings.” Or
    tega-Rodriguez v. United States, 
    507 U.S. 234
    , 246 (1993).
    And if some prior court rulings allowed a former escapee
    to reinstate forfeited claims, there is no convincing reason
    to say a future escapee is entitled to similar treatment.
    Nor is there any indication that the Supreme Court of
    Pennsylvania adopted its forfeiture rule out of any hostil
    ity toward legitimate constitutional claims.
       It is most doubtful that, in light of its underlying pur
    poses, the adequate state ground doctrine ought to prevent
    a State from adopting, and enforcing, a sensible rule that
    the escaped felon forfeits any pending postverdict motions.
    The law is entitled to protect the regularity and predict
    ability of its own processes, and its own interest in the
    prompt adjudication of disputed issues, by imposing a rule
    of waiver quite without regard to some notion of express or
    constructive reliance by the one who escapes. And if that
    principle had not been fully explicated in prior decisions, it
    seems to me that the State can establish a new baseline
    without later having its procedural bar ignored by the
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)           3
    
                       KENNEDY, J., concurring
    
    federal courts. This should be true even if the principles
    barring the postverdict motions are first elaborated in the
    instant case.
      The process of elaborating, defining, and then shaping a
    State’s decisional law after considering the competing
    arguments in a specific case rests on this premise: Novel
    facts and circumstances may disclose principles that,
    while consistent with the logic and rationality the law
    seeks and in that sense predictable, still have not yet been
    defined with precision in earlier cases. This is the dy
    namic of the case system we rely upon to explain the law.
      The adequate state ground doctrine ought not to fore
    close the case process in the separate States. A too
    rigorous or demanding insistence that procedural re
    quirements be established in all of their detail before they
    can be given effect in federal court would deprive the
    States of the case law decisional dynamic that the Judici
    ary of the United States finds necessary and appropriate
    for the elaboration of its own procedural rules. See, e.g.,
    Smith v. United States, 
    94 U.S. 97
     (1876). Save where
    there is exclusive jurisdiction or federal supremacy, a
    proper constitutional balance ought not give federal courts
    latitude in the interpretation and elaboration of its law
    that it then withholds from the States. There is no sense
    in applying the adequate state ground rule without its
    being informed by these principles.
      Whether the structure of this case either permits or
    requires consideration of these matters is not clear at this
    stage. In a proper case, however, these concerns should be
    addressed. It seems most doubtful that this Court can or
    should require federal courts to disregard a state proce
    dural ground that was not in all respects explicit before
    the case when it was first announced, absent a showing of
    a purpose or pattern to evade constitutional guarantees.
    And this is particularly so when the state procedural
    requirement arose from the necessity, in new circum
    4                   BEARD v. KINDLER
    
                       KENNEDY, J., concurring
    
    stances, to prevent a travesty of the State’s own respected
    system. In this context, the objecting party ought not to
    have the power to block federal courts from honoring
    state-law determinations that were otherwise valid, en
    forceable, and consistent with constitutional guarantees.
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 08-992

Citation Numbers: 558 U.S. 53, 130 S. Ct. 612, 175 L. Ed. 2d 417, 2009 U.S. LEXIS 8944

Filed Date: 12/8/2009

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 12/5/2017

Authorities (20)

Smith v. United States , 94 U.S. 97 ( 1876 )

United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co. , 200 U.S. 321 ( 1906 )

NAACP v. Alabama Ex Rel. Patterson , 357 U.S. 449 ( 1958 )

NAACP v. Alabama Ex Rel. Flowers , 377 U.S. 288 ( 1964 )

Henry v. Mississippi , 379 U.S. 443 ( 1965 )

Francis v. Henderson , 425 U.S. 536 ( 1976 )

Wainwright v. Sykes , 433 U.S. 72 ( 1977 )

Michigan v. Long , 463 U.S. 1032 ( 1983 )

James v. Kentucky , 466 U.S. 341 ( 1984 )

Mills v. Maryland , 486 U.S. 367 ( 1988 )

Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722 ( 1991 )

Ortega-Rodriguez v. United States , 507 U.S. 234 ( 1993 )

Lee v. Kemna , 534 U.S. 362 ( 2002 )

United States v. Roy L. McCoy , 517 F.2d 41 ( 1975 )

Gary Lee Doctor v. Gilbert A. Walters , 96 F.3d 675 ( 1996 )

United States v. Poynter , 495 F.3d 349 ( 2007 )

Com. v. Kindler , 722 A.2d 143 ( 1998 )

Kindler v. Horn , 542 F.3d 70 ( 2008 )

Com. v. Kindler , 536 Pa. 228 ( 1994 )

Kindler v. Horn , 291 F. Supp. 2d 323 ( 2003 )

View All Authorities »

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Bunton v. Atherton , 613 F.3d 973 ( 2010 )

Greene v. Palakovich , 606 F.3d 85 ( 2010 )

Ronnie Wilson v. Pat Hurley ( 2010 )

Rollins v. Horn ( 2010 )

Welch v. Lund , 616 F.3d 756 ( 2010 )

Juan Hill v. Howard Carlton ( 2010 )

Felix Rocha v. Rick Thaler, Director ( 2010 )

Felix Rocha v. Rick Thaler, Director ( 2010 )

United States v. Ronald Clark ( 2010 )

Janosky v. St. Amand , 594 F.3d 39 ( 2010 )

Walker v. Martin , 131 S. Ct. 1120 ( 2011 )

Williams v. Beard , 637 F.3d 195 ( 2011 )

Jewett v. Brady , 634 F.3d 67 ( 2011 )

Kerr v. Thurmer , 639 F.3d 315 ( 2011 )

Stone v. Moore , 644 F.3d 342 ( 2011 )

Kindler v. Horn , 642 F.3d 398 ( 2011 )

Lark v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections , 645 F.3d 596 ( 2011 )

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