Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Inmate on death row not responsible for mail room mistakes

Back in October, I posted about the unusual case of Cory Maples. The original post is here. Today the United States Supreme Court ruled on the case. The Court ruled 7-2 that Mr. Maples can bring an ineffective assistance of counsel claim despite the fact that the deadline for such a claim was missed because his law firm's mail room never opened or provided him with an order that he needed to perfect his claim. The Court's order and dissent are here. Adam Liptik's summary of the case is here. While I would like to believe this decision signals the end of Courts punishing litigants for hyper-technical violations of rules, I doubt the case will be read that broadly.

On a lighter note, I was amused by the fact that Justice Scalia's dissent, which includes the line "Technology is destiny" was published the same day as the SOPA, PIPA protests are being held on various websites.


  1. In my comment to your previous post on this, I mentioned that I thought I had read somewhere that at one point Sullivan & Cromwell argued that it was the individual lawyers, not the firm, who handled the pro bono cases. But I was unable to find anything on the internet to back up that rather random memory. Justice Scalia's dissent, however, includes this: "in connection with the attempt before the Alabama trial court to extend the time for appeal, Sullivan & Cromwell partner Marc De Leeuw submitted an affidavit stating that the firm’s lawyers 'handle pro bono cases on an individual basis' and that the lawyers who had appeared in Maples’ case had followed that practice, 'attempt[ing] not to use the firm name on correspondence or court papers.'”

    So I read this case as a vindication of my mind's ability to recall pointless trivia.

  2. Question for you, Gillette: Do you think there's any way this case comes out this way if Maples was facing life in prison rather than the death penalty? I sure don't.


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