Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Our Fault, But You Have to Fix It.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals admitted an error last week in the case Ex Parte Rendon.  The error, the CCA explained, was in the format provided for post-conviction habeas applications.  By rule, the  application (whether it be made by an applicant or his attorney) must be sworn to before a notary public (or, if the applicant is incarcerated, an inmate's declaration must be made), but the application form did not include a signature block for an attorney to sign in the presence of a notary public.  Because of this, the applicant's attorney simply signed the application and filed it with the court.  The CCA concluded that the application was not properly verified, but recognized that the fault lied with the court and its form, not with the applicant or his attorney.

The CCA gave instructions on how to correct the error in the future, but dismissed the application (without prejudice) and advised the applicant that he could refile using the clarified procedure if he wants to have his application considered.  What?  Seriously?  The CCA accepts responsibility for the error in the application, but dismisses the application and makes the applicant refile?  Why not just consider the application now?

Judge Johnson expressed similar shock at the Court's opinion HERE.  In her dissenting opinion, she states:

The difficulty in this case arose because this Court’s prescribed form for an application for a writ of habeas corpus did not require what is now held to be required.  Today we change the rules, yet hold an applicant, who properly filed his application on the old form, to the new rules.  On a basis of which he had no knowledge, we now dismiss his petition and tell him to refile. This strikes me as unjust. This Court’s form created the problem, and this Court should not use that court created problem to place a new burden on this applicant and other applicants who, as of the date of the issuance of the Court’s opinion, had properly filed applications on the old form.