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DUCKWORTH V. SERRANO, 454 U. S. 1 (1981)

U.S. Supreme Court

Duckworth v. Serrano, 454 U.S. 1 (1981)

Duckworth v. Serrano

No. 82041

Decided October 19, 1981

454 U.S. 1


Respondent, whose Indiana state court conviction for murder was affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court, unsuccessfully sought habeas corpus relief in a Federal District Court. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, respondent claimed for the first time that he had been denied effective assistance of counsel, on the basis of a prosecution witness' testimony at the state trial that she had been represented on a traffic charge by the law firm of respondent's attorney and that she had asked respondent's attorney to represent her on a pending robbery charge, unrelated to the murder. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's dismissal of the habeas corpus petition, concluding that there was a per se violation of the Sixth Amendment guarantee of effective representation, and that, "in view of the clear violation" of respondent's rights and "in the interest of judicial economy," there was no reason to await the state court's initial consideration of the issue.

Held: The Court of Appeals was obligated to dismiss respondent's petition because obvious constitutional errors, no less than obscure transgressions, are subject to the well-settled requirement, codified in the federal habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c), that a state prisoner must normally exhaust state remedies before a writ of habeas corpus can be granted by the federal courts. Creating an exception to the exhaustion requirement for "clear violations" would not promote judicial economy,

Page 454 U. S. 2

but rather would invite habeas petitioners to make a practice of first seeking relief on these grounds in federal courts.

Certiorari granted; 654 F.2d 725, reversed and remanded.

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