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    • Brief

    Hammoud v. Ma’at

    Brief of Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner-Appellant.

    Argument: NACDL’s amicus brief argues that under the savings clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e), a prisoner may seek habeas corpus relief through 28 U.S.C. § 2241 under limited circumstances: when the § 2255 remedy is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [the prisoner’s] detention.”  28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).  For 20 years, the Fifth Circuit has recognized that the § 2255 remedy is “inadequate or ineffective” if a petitioner cannot seek relief despite a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision establishing that the petitioner may have been convicted of a nonexistent crime.  Although that test leaves the door closed on some actual-innocence claims that should be recognized, it is generally consistent with the savings-clause tests applied in nearly every other federal court of appeals.  Most importantly, that test confirms that the savings clause offers more than a hollow process providing no practical opportunity to end unlawful imprisonment.  The Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, by contrast, have held that the savings clause applies only if the procedure afforded by § 2255 was formally unavailable.  According to those courts, so long as there was some theoretical chance to assert a claim under § 2255—even if the claim was futile or frivolous under existing precedent—the remedy was adequate and effective.  The Fifth Circuit should not modify or overrule its savings-clause jurisprudence to align itself with the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits.  The test applied in those circuits contravenes the text of the savings clause and congressional intent, poses constitutional concerns, and would force petitioners and their counsel to disregard binding precedent, court rules, and ethical obligations that forbid arguments that would be frivolous under settled law.  Moreover, application of the formal-process test would undermine public confidence in the justice system’s treatment of prisoners who contend that retroactive changes in the law mean they are actually innocent.

    • Brief

    Brown v. Lumpkin

    Brief of Amicus Curiae the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Petitioner’s Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Order.

    Argument: Investigations by telephone, rather than in-person, deprive Brown of effective assistance of counsel. Defense counsel’s ability in a death penalty case to effectively represent the client is derived from “the overarching duty to advocate the defendant’s cause.” This duty is even more critical in capital cases, since “‘the penalty of death is qualitatively different’ from any other sentence.” As such, capital cases require a “greater degree of reliability when the death sentence is imposed.” However, reliability is only attainable when defense counsel is able to adequately investigate and prepare, which is fundamental to attorney competence. Inhibiting defense counsel’s ability to investigate renders counsel ineffective and harms the client. In fact, several courts have found defense counsel constitutionally ineffective for failing to conduct an in-person investigation. The Magistrate’s Order asks counsel to ignore ethical obligations under standards governing capital cases. A mitigation investigation in a capital case must not deviate from the American Bar Association Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Council in Death Penalty Cases and the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty Cases. Capital life sentence investigations must be conducted according to well-established best practices. The ABA Guidelines, the Supplementary Guidelines, and Texas Guidelines articulate the national and state standards regarding the investigation obligations of defense teams in such cases.