Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
No. 10–1104. Argued November 1, 2011—Decided January 10, 2012
Respondent Pollard sought damages from employees at a privately run federal prison in California, claiming that they had deprived him of adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment ’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Federal District Court dismissed the complaint, ruling that the Eighth Amendment does not imply an action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388, against a privately managed prison’s personnel. The Ninth Circuit reversed.
Held: Because in the circumstance of this case, state tort law authorizes adequate alternative damages actions—providing both significant deterrence and compensation—no Bivens remedy can be implied here. Pp. 3−12.
(a) Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U. S. 537, fairly summarizes the basic considerations the Court applies here. In deciding whether to recognize a Bivens remedy, a court must first ask “whether any alternative, existing process for protecting the [constitutionally recognized] interest amounts to a convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding” damages remedy. Even absent an alternative, “a Bivens remedy is a subject of judgment: ‘the federal courts must make the kind of remedial determination that is appropriate for a common-law tribunal, paying particular heed... to any special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation.’ ” Id., at 550. In Bivens itself, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment implicitly authorized a court to order federal agents to pay damages to a person injured by the agents’ violation of the Amendment’s strictures, 403 U. S., at 389, noting that the Fourth Amendment prohibited conduct that state law might permit, id., at 392–393, and that the interests protected on the one hand by state “trespass” and “invasion of privacy” laws and on the other hand by the Fourth Amendment “may be inconsistent or even hostile,” id., at 394. It also stated that “[h]istorically, damages have been regarded as the ordinary remedy for an invasion of personal interests in liberty,” id., at 395, and found “no special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.” Id., at 396. Bivens actions were allowed in Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228, for a Fifth Amendment due process claim involving gender-based employment discrimination, and in Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14, for an Eighth Amendment claim based on federal government officials’ “deliberat[e] indifferen[ce]” to a federal prisoner’s medical needs, id., at 16, n. 1, 17. Since Carlson, this Court has declined to imply a Bivens action in several different instances. See, e.g., Bush v. Lucas, 462 U. S. 367, Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61.
Applying Wilkie’s approach here, Pollard cannot assert a Bivens claim, primarily because his Eighth Amendment claim focuses on a kind of conduct that typically falls within the scope of traditional state tort law. And in the case of a privately employed defendant, state tort law provides an “alternative, existing process” capable of protecting the constitutional interests at stake. Wilkie, 551 U. S., at 550. The existence of that alternative remedy constitutes a “convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding” damages remedy. Ibid. Pp. 3−7.
(b) Pollard’s contrary arguments are rejected. First, he claims that Carlson authorizes an Eighth Amendment -based Bivens action here, but Carlson involved government, not privately employed, personnel. The potential existence of an “adequate alternative, existing process” differs dramatically for public and private employees, as prisoners ordinarily can bring state tort actions against private employees, but not against public ones. Second, Pollard’s argument that this Court should consider only whether federal laws provide adequate alternative remedies because of the “vagaries” of state tort law, Carlson, supra, at 23, was rejected in Malesko, supra, at 72−73. Third, Pollard claims that state tort law does not provide remedies adequate to protect the constitutional interests at issue here, but California, like every other State (as far as the Court is aware), has tort law that provides for negligence actions for claims such as his. That the state law may prove less generous than would a Bivens action does not render the state law inadequate, and state remedies and a potential Bivens remedy need not be perfectly congruent. Fourth, Pollard argues that there may be similar Eighth Amendment claims that state tort law does not cover, but he offers no supporting cases. The possibility of a future case, where an Eighth Amendment claim or state law differs significantly from those at issue, provides insufficient grounds for reaching a different conclusion here. Pp. 7−12.
607 F. 3d 583 and 629 F. 3d 843, reversed.
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Certiorari To The Criminal District Court Of Louisiana, Orleans Parish
No. 10–8145. Argued November 8, 2011—Decided January 10, 2012
Petitioner Juan Smith was convicted of first-degree murder based on the testimony of a single eyewitness. During state postconviction relief proceedings, Smith obtained police files containing statements by the eyewitness contradicting his testimony. Smith argued that the prosecution’s failure to disclose those statements violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83. Brady held that due process bars a State from withholding evidence that is favorable to the defense and material to the defendant’s guilt or punishment. See id., at 87. The state trial court rejected Smith’s Brady claim, and the Louisiana Court of Appeal and Louisiana Supreme Court denied review.
Held: Brady requires that Smith’s conviction be reversed. The State does not dispute that the eyewitness’s statements were favorable to Smith and that those statements were not disclosed to Smith. Under Brady, evidence is material if there is a “reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Cone v. Bell, 556 U. S. 449–470. A “reasonable probability” means that the likelihood of a different result is great enough to “undermine[ ] confidence in the outcome of the trial.” Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U. S. 419. Evidence impeaching an eyewitness’s testimony may not be material if the State’s other evidence is strong enough to sustain confidence in the verdict. United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97–113, and n. 21. Here, however, the eyewitness’s testimony was the only evidence linking Smith to the crime, and the eyewitness’s undisclosed statements contradicted his testimony. The eyewitness’s statements were plainly material, and the State’s failure to disclose those statements to the defense thus violated Brady. Pp. 2–4.
Reversed and remanded.
Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit
No. 10–895. Argued November 2, 2011—Decided January 10, 2012
After the intermediate state appellate court affirmed his state-court conviction, petitioner Gonzalez allowed his time for seeking discretionary review with the State’s highest court for criminal appeals to expire. Roughly six weeks later, the intermediate state appellate court issued its mandate. When Gonzalez subsequently sought federal habeas relief, the District Court dismissed Gonzalez’s petition as time barred by the 1-year statute of limitations in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Under 28 U. S. C. §2244(d)(1)(A), state prisoners have one year to file federal habeas petitions running from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” The District Court held that Gonzalez’s judgment had become “final” when his time for seeking discretionary review in the State’s highest court expired, and that running the limitations period from that date, his petition was untimely.
Under AEDPA, a habeas petitioner must obtain a certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal a district court’s final order in a habeas proceeding. 28 U. S. C. §2253(c)(1). The COA may issue only if the petitioner has made a “substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right,” §2253(c)(2), and “shall indicate which specific issue” satisfies that showing, §2253(c)(3). A Fifth Circuit judge granted Gonzalez a COA on the question whether his petition was timely. The issued COA, however, failed to “indicate” a constitutional issue.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Gonzalez’s petition was untimely because the limitations period begins to run for petitioners who fail to appeal to a State’s highest court when the time for seeking further direct review in the state court expires. The Fifth Circuit did not mention, and the State did not raise, the §2253(c)(3) defect. When Gonzalez petitioned this Court for review, the State argued for the first time that the Fifth Circuit lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Gonzalez’s appeal based on the §2253(c)(3) defect.
1. Section 2253(c)(3) is a mandatory but nonjurisdictional rule. A COA’s failure to “indicate” a constitutional issue does not deprive a Court of Appeals of jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeal. Pp. 4−13.
(a) A rule is jurisdictional “[i]f the Legislature clearly states that a threshold limitation on a statute’s scope shall count as jurisdictional,” Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U. S. 500. Here, the only clear jurisdictional language in §2253(c) appears in §2253(c)(1). The parties agree that §2253(c)(1)’s plain terms make the issuance of a COA a jurisdictional prerequisite. The parties also agree that §2253(c)(2), which speaks only to when a COA may issue and does not contain §2253(c)(1)’s jurisdictional terms, is nonjurisdictional. It follows that §2253(c)(3) is also nonjurisdictional. Like §2253(c)(2), it reflects a threshold condition for issuing a COA, and “does not speak in jurisdictional terms or refer... to the jurisdiction of the [appeals] courts.” Arbaugh, 546 U. S., at 515. Jurisdictional treatment also would thwart Congress’s intent in AEDPA “to eliminate delays in the federal habeas review process.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U. S. ___, ___. Once a judge has determined that a COA is warranted and resources are deployed in briefing and argument, the COA has fulfilled its gatekeeping function. Pp. 4−9.
(b) The State’s contrary arguments are unpersuasive. Section 2253(c)(3)’s cross-reference to §2253(c)(1) does not mean §2253(c)(3) can be read as part of §2253(c)(1), as Congress set off the requirements in distinct paragraphs with distinct terms. The word “shall” in §2253(c)(3), meanwhile, underscores the rule’s mandatory nature, but not all mandatory rules are jurisdictional. Nor does §2253(c)(3)’s mere proximity to other jurisdictional provisions turn a rule that speaks in nonjurisdictional terms into a jurisdictional hurdle. Finally, the Court rejects the State’s attempt to analogize a COA to a notice of appeal. Pp. 10−13.
2. For a state prisoner who does not seek review in a State’s highest court, the judgment becomes “final” for purposes of §2244(d)(1)(A) on the date that the time for seeking such review expires. Pp. 13−19.
(a) In Clay v. United States, 537 U. S. 522, the Court held that a federal conviction becomes final “when this Court affirms a conviction on the merits on direct review or denies a petition for a writ of certiorari,” or, if a petitioner does not seek certiorari, “when the time for filing a certiorari petition expires.” Id., at 527. In Jimenez v. Quarterman, 555 U. S. 113, the Court adopted Clay’s “most natural reading of the statutory text” in construing “the similar language of §2244(d)(1)(A).” Id., at 119. The Court made no mention of when Jimenez’s appeal concluded and held that his judgment became final when his time for seeking certiorari expired. Section 2244(d)(1)(A) thus consists of two prongs corresponding to two categories of petitioners. For petitioners pursuing direct review all the way to this Court, the judgment becomes final at the “conclusion of direct review,” when this Court affirms a conviction on the merits or denies certiorari. For all other petitioners, the judgment becomes final at the “expiration of the time for seeking such review,” when the time for pursuing direct review in this Court, or in state court, expires. Because Gonzalez did not appeal to the State’s highest court, his judgment became final when his time for seeking review with that court expired. Pp. 13–15.
(b) Gonzalez argues that courts should determine both prongs for every petitioner who does not seek certiorari, then start the 1-year clock from the latest of the two dates. Gonzalez further contends that when a petitioner does not seek certiorari, state law should define the “conclusion of direct review.” The words “latest of,” however, appear in §2244(d)(1), not §2244(d)(1)(A). Nothing in §2244(d)(1)(A) contemplates any conflict between the two prongs or instructs that the later of the two shall prevail. Gonzalez’s approach of scouring each State’s laws and cases to determine how the State defines finality, moreover, would contradict the uniform meaning of “conclusion of direct review” that Clay and Jimenez accepted. It will be a rare situation in which a delay in the mandate’s issuance is so severe as to prevent a petitioner from filing a federal habeas petition within a year or requesting a stay and abeyance. Finally, the Court rejects Gonzalez’s alternative argument that his petition is timely because it was filed within a year of when his time for seeking certiorari review expired. Pp. 15−19.
623 F. 3d 222, affirmed.
Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
No. 10–948. Argued October 11, 2011—Decided January 10, 2012
Although respondents’ credit card agreement required their claims to be resolved by binding arbitration, they filed a lawsuit against petitioner CompuCredit Corporation and a division of petitioner bank, alleging, inter alia, violations of the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). The Federal District Court denied the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration, concluding that Congress intended CROA claims to be nonarbitrable. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Held: Because the CROA is silent on whether claims under the Act can proceed in an arbitrable forum, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires the arbitration agreement to be enforced according to its terms. Pp. 2–10.
(a) Section 2 of the FAA establishes “a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration.” Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U. S. 1. It requires that courts enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms. See Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U. S. 213. That is the case even when federal statutory claims are at issue, unless the FAA’s mandate has been “overridden by a contrary congressional command.” Shearson/American Express Inc. v. McMahon, 482 U. S. 220. Pp. 2–3.
(b) The CROA provides no such command. Respondents contend that the CROA’s disclosure provision—which requires credit repair organizations to provide consumers with a statement that includes the sentence “ ‘You have a right to sue a credit repair organization that violates the [Act],’ ” 15 U. S. C. §1679c(a)—gives consumers the right to bring an action in a court of law; and that, because the CROA prohibits the waiver of “any right of the consumer under this subchapter,” §1679f(a), the arbitration agreement’s waiver of the “right” to bring a court action cannot be enforced. Respondents’ premise is flawed. The disclosure provision creates only a right for consumers to receive a specific statement describing the consumer protections that the law elsewhere provides, one of which is the right to enforce a credit repair organization’s “liab[ility]” for “fail[ure] to comply with [the Act].” §1679g(a). That provision does not override the FAA’s mandate. Its mere contemplation of judicial enforcement does not demonstrate that the Act provides consumers with a “right” to initial judicial enforcement. Pp. 3–8.
(c) At the time of the CROA’s enactment in 1996, arbitration clauses such as the one at issue were no rarity in consumer contracts generally, or in financial services contracts in particular. Had Congress meant to prohibit these very common provisions in the CROA, it would have done so in a manner less obtuse than what respondents suggest. Pp. 8–9.
615 F. 3d 1204, reversed and remanded.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Kagan, J., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion.