Sometimes referred to as the “Great Writ,” a “writ of habeas corpus” is a procedural mechanism through which a prisoner may demand that their "jailer" appear before a federal judge and “show cause” for their incarceration. (As a side note, since habeas applications are filed against the custodian who actually supervises the inmate's detention rather than the state itself, the resulting case names typically consist of the names of two individuals rather than one individual versus one state (e.g., “Paul Prisoner v. Ringo Warden” rather than “Paul Prisoner v. State of New York”).)
As the Fifth Circuit recently explained on December 27, 2011 in Hines v. Thaler,
Under [28 U.S.C.]§ 2254(d)(2), a federal district court may grant habeas relief “only if the state court's adjudication of his claim on the merits . . . ‘resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.’” Rabe, 649 F.3d at 308 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)).
No. 11-70010 (5th Cir. Dec. 27, 2011) (unpublished) (ellipsis in original; emphasis added). So, if a prisoner files a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) challenging the correctness of a state court’s factual determination, should federal courts apply the more rigorous “clear and convincing” standard of review found in § 2254(e)(1), or the more lenient “unreasonable determination” standard provided by § 2254(d)(2)? In a footnote to the block-quoted text above, the Fifth Circuit identified the following circuit conflict over this question:
We also note that under AEDPA “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct,” such that “[t]he applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The relationship between this provision and § 2254(d)(2) is ambiguous. As this court has previously explained, “[w]e do not make any pronouncements as to whether the more deferential standard prescribed in § 2254(e)(1) applies in every case presenting a challenge under § 2254(d)(2),” a question that the Supreme Court has left open. See Turner v. Epps, 412 F. App’x 696, 700 n.2 (5th Cir. 2011) (citing Wood v. Allen, 130 S. Ct. 841, 848–49, 175 L. Ed. 2d 738 (2010) (observing, but not resolving, the circuit split among courts regarding the relationship between § 2254(d)(2) and § 2254(e)(1))). Below, we hold that reasonable jurists could not debate the correctness of the district court's determination that the state court's adjudication was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Therefore, we see no need to resolve which standard—the more rigorous “clear and convincing” or the more lenient “unreasonable determination”—should govern this case and do not consider this issue further.
Id. (emphasis added).