Cruz v. Arizona’s Very Odd Jurisdictional Holding
Two weeks ago, Dan Epps and I released our latest podcast episode (Mr. Jurisdiction) where among other things we talked about the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Cruz v. Arizona. Cruz is a capital case featuring a dispute about whether the sentencing jury was adequately informed of the consequences of a non-death sentence. In state court, under state post-conviction proceedings, the Arizona Supreme Court held that Cruz’s arguments did not satisfy Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(g) requirement that there be “a significant change in the law” to file using the state procedure that Cruz used. The United States Supreme Court reviewed that state decision and reversed, holding that the state’s interpretation of its own procedural requirement was not an “adequate and independent state ground” (AISG) for the judgment. It then vacated and remanded for further proceedings. Cruz is an odd case. But the more I think about Cruz, the more I must confess that I had not fully recognized how odd it is.
Most of the time, when a state supreme court decides a question of state law, that is the end of the story. The Supreme Court can’t/won’t review whether the state court got that law “wrong.” But there are two important exceptions to this.
One exception is when the state supreme court’s construction of state law itself creates federal constitutional problems: for instance, if it broadens criminal law in a way that creates a fair notice problem, if it contracts property rights in a way that results in a taking, if it contracts contract rights in a way that impairs the obligation of contracts, or (tbd this term) if it interprets election l
Article from Reason.com