Exhaustion of State Remedies as a Prerequisite to Federal Habeas Corpus: A summary, 1966 – 1971

Vincent A. Laubach, Exhaustion of State Remedies as a Prerequisite to Federal Habeas Corpus: A Summary, 1966-1971, 7 Gonz. L. Rev. 34 (1971).

From its roots deep in common law, habeas corpus, “The Great Writ,” has held a position of extraordinary importance in Anglo-American jurisprudence.’ Traditionally concerned with the vindication of a person’s federal constitutional rights, the basic principle of the writ is that the government must be held accountable to the judiciary for a person’s imprisonment; if that imprisonment does not conform with the fundamental dictates of law, the prisoner is entitled to his immediate release.
The applicability of federal habeas corpus to state prisoners depends on two events in American history: the inclusion of the
supremacy clause in the United States Constitution, Article VI, in 1787, and the adoption of the fourteenth amendment in 18 68.’ Existing as it does, however, in addition to and beyond state appellate procedures, federal habeas corpus was bound to raise cries of unnecessary overlap and duplication. This is not true for a number of reasons, among them: 1) The Supreme Court alone cannot satisfy the ultimate right of a state prisoner to have a federal court and federal judge pass upon his federal contentions. Sheer volume of cases alone precludes the Supreme Court from being the only federal forum in which these rights can be raised. 2) Original conviction proceedings do not always provide an adequate forum for the vindication of federal rights; inadequacies of postconviction remedies in many states often mean that no state adjudication of these rights is afforded. As a result, the federal courts, through the writ of habeas corpus, have provided a needed forum for redress of denials
of due process of law.

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