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Today’s Oral Arguments

The first case to be argued today is No. 04-637, Bradshaw v. Stumpf. Bradshaw — which is the first of two capital cases out of the Sixth Circuit to be argued this sitting (the other one being Bell v. Thompson, to be argued next week) — presents questions regarding the voluntariness of the respondent’s plea and whether the Due Process Clause requires respondent’s guilty plea to be vacated when the state later prosecutes a co-defendant using evidence that is inconsistent with respondent’s guilt. Douglas Cole, the State Solicitor of Ohio, will argue on behalf of the petitioner, while Alan Freedman of the Midwest Center for Justice will argue on behalf of the respondent.

You can read Danielle Goldstein’s excellent summary of the case, which was posted last week on SCOTUSBlog, here.

The second case to be argued today is No. 04-563, Mayle v. Felix, in which the Court will consider the application to federal habeas corpus cases of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), which provides that an amendment to a pleading “relates back” to the original pleading when “the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading.”

Felix was convicted of first-degree murder in a California state court. After his direct appeals were unsuccessful, he filed a timely pro se habeas petition in federal district court in which he alleged that the admission at his trial of videotaped statements by a key prosecution witness violated the Confrontation Clause. Approximately eight months later, and after the AEDPA’s statute of limitations had expired, Felix — now represented by counsel — filed an amended habeas petition that included both the original Confrontation Clause claim and the further claim that his Fifth Amendment right was violated by the admission at trial of an allegedly coerced confession made by Felix himself during an interview with the police.

The district court held that Felix’s coerced confession claim did not arise out of the “same core of facts” as his Confrontation Clause claim and was thus time-barred under the AEDPA. The Ninth Circuit reversed. It construed Rule 15(c)’s reference to the same “conduct, transaction, or occurrence” more broadly, holding that in habeas cases the relevant “transaction” is the “trial and conviction under attack.”

California Deputy Attorney General Mathew Chan will argue on behalf of the petitioner, and Assistant to the Solicitor General Lisa Blatt will argue on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae in support of the petitioner. Assistant Federal Public Defender David Porter will argue on behalf of the respondent.