Attorneys general have a role in the appeals and post-conviction processes in criminal cases, but the responsibility varies depending on jurisdiction. An attorney general’s authority generally falls into one of three categories where he or she is responsible for:
- All criminal appeals, including state appellate courts, the state supreme court, and federal proceedings (usually habeas corpus cases).
- Direct appeals and state post-conviction matters for cases where the attorney general office handled the prosecution at the trial.
- Criminal appeals in specific cases or circumstances.
Many attorney general offices have correctional litigation sections that are responsible for representing state employees in court who are being sued for allegedly violating a prisoner’s state or federal rights. They might also represent law enforcement officers in correctional matters.
A significant portion of criminal appeals and post-convictions involve habeas corpus, a legal doctrine which guarantees an individual’s right to be brought before a judge or court prior to being detained or imprisoned. The attorney general represents the state or territory in a federal habeas corpus proceeding.
The U.S. Supreme Court has published a set of rules to govern the procedure of federal habeas petitions. The Habeas Rules decree:
- A one-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court.
- The time during which a properly filed application for state post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.