The Champion

November 2006 , Page 26 

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When Federal Courts Misplace Your Writ and Fail to Rule

By Ephraim Margolin

You have filed your best, most carefully documented, most convincing, most “sure-fire” federal habeas corpus petition. Your client’s family hocked themselves blind to pay your fees and costs. They paid your investigators and your experts. You located your witnesses. You have created a virtual Sistine Chapel of a writ. No one could have done it better. You feel like a Genghis Khan in short pants. But the judge you drew remains unimpressed. A year goes by. Two years go by. You are facing the end of a fruitless third year. Your client concludes that you are a bum. Your witnesses gradually disappear, succumb to old age, move away, or get deported. Before the century fades, what can you do?

Last year, I had six different, involuntarily antique, habeas petitions in five different districts, before five different federal judges. Each habeas was more than two years old and seemed forgotten in the court in which it had been filed. Like a giraffe — known for sticking its neck out — my neck hurts

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