Director, Center for Supreme Court AdvocacyNational Association of Attorneys General
This Report summarizes an opinion issued on January 20, 2022 (Part I); and cases granted review on January 14, 2022 (Part II).
Cases Granted Review: Shoop v. Twyford, 21-511
Shoop v. Twyford, 21-511. This case involves the question whether a federal court may, pursuant to its authority under the All Writs Act, grant a prisoner’s request to be transported outside the prison so that the prisoner may develop new evidence that might plausibly aid him in proving his entitlement to federal habeas relief. Prisoner Raymond Twyford, who was pursuing federal habeas relief, sought—and was granted—an order from the district court requiring his transport to a medical facility for neurological testing. Twyford had alleged that it was “plausible that the testing to be administered is likely to reveal evidence in support of” his then-pending federal habeas claim which argued that his trial counsel and expert were ineffective for failing to present evidence of “neuropsychological deficits . . . due to a head injury [that he] had suffered as a teenager.” A divided panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed the order. 11 F.4th 518.
The Sixth Circuit first determined that, despite its interlocutory nature, it had jurisdiction to hear the warden’s appeal. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court’s transportation order was a proper exercise of its authority under the All Writs Act, which authorizes courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Specifically, the court of appeals determined that the transportation order was ancillary to its general authority to grant habeas relief. This was so, the court noted, even though Twyford had not explained how any evidence that would be developed would be admissible in any subsequent habeas proceeding.
The warden argues that the Sixth Circuit erred in two respects. First, the warden argues that, because the federal habeas statute expressly forbids issuing writs of habeas corpus except in five enumerated circumstances (none of which are applicable to this case), the district court improperly relied on the general authority of the All Writs Act, which is designed as a “gap filler” where no other statute applies. The warden points specifically to 28 U.S.C. §2241(c)(5), which allows federal courts to issue a writ of habeas corpus ordering the transportation of a state prisoner only if “necessary to bring him into court to testify or for trial.” Second, the warden argues that the district court’s order conflicts with Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011), which held that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 generally prohibits habeas courts from considering evidence outside of the record developed in state court. The warden thus argues that the district court erred in issuing an order designed to facilitate factual development without first determining whether any such facts would be admissible in a subsequent habeas proceeding.
[Editor’s note: Some of the language in the background section of the summary above was taken from the petition for writ of certiorari and brief in opposition.]