A ruling that curtails the All Writs Act in habeas proceedings will be felt by state prisoners and federal courts
The Supreme Court in Shoop v. Twyford continued its sustained assault on efforts by prisoners to challenge their state-court convictions and sentences in federal court. In Tuesday’s 5-4 decision, the justices limited the ability of federal courts to use the All Writs Act to order states to transport prisoners, even when such transport could help prisoners investigate whether their convictions are unconstitutional. While the court’s decision plainly affects prisoners seeking relief in federal court, it may also affect the functioning of federal courts in diverse contexts.
As background, the federal district court in this case relied on the All Writs Act to order Ohio prison warden Tim Shoop to transport state death-row prisoner Raymond Twyford to a medical facility for neuroimaging. Twyford sought information that could support his habeas corpus proceedings, i.e., his challenge to his state-court conviction and death sentence. He pointed to the presence of bullet fragments lodged in his head from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, among other circumstances, to justify the imaging. The warden immediately appealed the district court’s transport order, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court took the case to consider whether and when federal courts may employ the All Writs Act in habeas corpus proceedings.Continue Reading