481 U. S. 129
April 21, 1987
Granberry filed a habeas petition in federal District Court. The District Court ruled against him, and on appeal, the prosecutor argued that the habeas petition must be dismissed because there were state remedies that had not been exhausted yet. In response, Granberry said that this exhaustion argument could not be raised now, since it had not been raised in District Court.
Stevens wrote for a unanimous Court. In a nauseatingly squishy decision, he said that failing to raise an exhaustion argument in District Court did not mean that such an argument could not be raised on appeal. But he also said that a lack of state exhaustion did not necessarily mean that a habeas petition must be dismissed. Instead, Stevens said that a Court of Appeals should weigh the relative interests – the value of the non-exhausted state remedies, and the merits of the habeas claims. The case was thus remanded back to the Court of Appeals for such a subjective determination.
OK, this decision wasn’t too bad, but I do prefer bright line rules most of the time. I’m not even halfway through the first Rehnquist term, and I’ve already grown sick of cases that focus solely on procedure, so any decision that leaves procedural ambiguity is going to annoy me. Plays about plays or novels about novels are fairly uncommon, and are often considered pretentious and overly meta. In contrast, lawsuits about lawsuits are simply ordinary business in the Supreme Court, and I’m tired of them.