We granted certiorari in this case to consider whether a federal habeas petitioner can show cause for a procedural default by establishing that competent defense counsel inadvertently
Respondent Clifford Carrier was convicted of rape and abduction by a Virginia jury in 1977. Before trial, respondent's court-appointed counsel moved for discovery of the victim's statements to police describing "her assailants, the vehicle the assailants were driving, and the location of where the alleged rape took place." 2 Record 11. The presiding judge denied the motion by letter to counsel after examining the statements in camera and determining that they contained no exculpatory evidence. Id., at 31. Respondent's counsel made a second motion to discover the victim's statements immediately prior to trial, which the trial judge denied for the same reason after conducting his own in camera examination. Tr. 151-152.
After respondent was convicted, his counsel filed a notice of appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court assigning seven errors, of which the fifth was:
Without consulting respondent, counsel subsequently submitted the required petition for appeal but failed to include this claim, notwithstanding that Virginia Supreme Court Rule 5:21 provides that "[o]nly errors assigned in the petition for appeal will be noticed by this Court and no error not so assigned will be admitted as a ground for reversal of a decision below." The Virginia Supreme Court refused the appeal and this Court denied certiorari. Carrier v. Virginia, 439 U.S. 1076 (1979).
A year later respondent, by this time proceeding pro se, filed a state habeas corpus petition claiming that he had been denied due process of law by the prosecution's withholding of the victim's statements. The State sought dismissal of his
Respondent next filed a pro se habeas petition in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, renewing his due process discovery claim as grounds for relief. The State filed a motion to dismiss asserting that respondent's failure to raise the issue on direct appeal was a procedural default barring federal habeas review under Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977), and that respondent had not exhausted his state remedies because he could bring an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the state courts to establish that his procedural default should be excused. 1 Record, Doc. No. 3. The United States Magistrate to whom the case was referred recommended dismissal by virtue of the procedural default and also ruled that respondent had not exhausted his state remedies. In reply to the Magistrate's report, respondent alleged that his procedural default was "due to ineffective assistance of counsel during the filing of his appeal." App. 11. The District Court approved the Magistrate's report, holding the discovery claim barred by the procedural default and indicating that respondent should establish cause for that default in the state courts.
At oral argument on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, respondent abandoned any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel but asserted that counsel had mistakenly omitted his discovery claim from the petition for appeal and that this error was cause for his default. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. Carrier v. Hutto, 724 F.2d 396 (1983). The court construed respondent's objection to the denial of discovery as having rested throughout on a contention that Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), requires the prosecution to disclose any evidence that might be material to guilt whether or not it is
The court also ruled that the District Court erred in suggesting that respondent should establish cause for the default in the state courts. "The exhaustion requirement of 28 U. S. C. § 2254 pertains to independent claims for habeas relief, not to the proffer of Wainwright cause and prejudice." Ibid. Since respondent did not allege ineffective assistance
The dissenting judge believed that the petition should have been dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies because respondent had never presented his discovery claim as a denial of due process in the state courts, id., at 403-404 (Hall, J., dissenting), and differed with the majority's interpretation of the cause standard because "[it] will ultimately allow the exception to swallow the rule." Id., at 405. The State sought rehearing, and the en banc Court of Appeals adopted the panel majority's decision, with four judges dissenting. Carrier v. Hutto, 754 F.2d 520 (1985). We now reverse and remand.
Wainwright v. Sykes held that a federal habeas petitioner who has failed to comply with a State's contemporaneous-objection rule at trial must show cause for the procedural default and prejudice attributable thereto in order to obtain review of his defaulted constitutional claim. 433 U. S., at 87. See also Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536 (1976). In so holding, the Court explicitly rejected the standard described in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391 (1963), under which a federal habeas court could refuse to review a defaulted claim only if "an applicant ha[d] deliberately by-passed the orderly procedure of the state courts," id., at 438, by personal waiver of the claim amounting to " `an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege.' " Id., at 439 (quoting Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 464 (1938)). See Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U. S., at 87-88. At a minimum, then, Wainwright v. Sykes plainly implied that default of a constitutional claim by counsel pursuant to a trial strategy or tactical decision would, absent extraordinary circumstances, bind the habeas petitioner even if he had not personally waived that claim. See id., at 91, n. 14; Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 13 (1984). Beyond that, the Court left open "for
We revisited the cause and prejudice test in Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107 (1982). Like Wainwright v. Sykes, Engle involved claims that were procedurally defaulted at trial. In seeking to establish cause for their defaults, the prisoners argued that "they could not have known at the time of their trials" of the substantive basis for their constitutional claims, which were premised on In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970). Engle, 456 U. S., at 130. Without deciding "whether the novelty of a constitutional claim ever establishes cause for a failure to object," id., at 131, we rejected this contention because we could not conclude that the legal basis for framing the prisoners' constitutional claims was unavailable at the time. Id., at 133. In language that bears directly on the present case, we said:
The thrust of this part of our decision in Engle is unmistakable: the mere fact that counsel failed to recognize the factual or legal basis for a claim, or failed to raise the claim despite recognizing it, does not constitute cause for a procedural default.
Indeed, the rule applied by the Court of Appeals would significantly increase the costs associated with a procedural default in many cases. In order to determine whether there was cause for a procedural default, federal habeas courts would routinely be required to hold evidentiary hearings to determine what prompted counsel's failure to raise the claim in question. While the federal habeas courts would no doubt strive to minimize the burdens to all concerned through the use of affidavits or other simplifying procedures, we are not prepared to assume that these costs would be negligible, particularly since, as we observed in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690 (1984), "[i]ntensive scrutiny of counsel . . . could dampen the ardor and impair the independence of defense counsel, discourage the acceptance of assigned cases,
We think, then, that the question of cause for a procedural default does not turn on whether counsel erred or on the kind of error counsel may have made. So long as a defendant is represented by counsel whose performance is not constitutionally ineffective under the standard established in Strickland v. Washington, supra, we discern no inequity in requiring him to bear the risk of attorney error that results in a procedural default. Instead, we think that the existence of cause for a procedural default must ordinarily turn on whether the prisoner can show that some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule. Without attempting an exhaustive catalog of such objective impediments to compliance with a procedural rule, we note that a showing that the factual or legal basis for a claim was not reasonably available to counsel, see Reed v. Ross, 468 U. S., at 16, or that "some interference by officials," Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 486 (1953), made compliance impracticable, would constitute cause under this standard.
Similarly, if the procedural default is the result of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Sixth Amendment itself requires that responsibility for the default be imputed to the State, which may not "conduc[t] trials at which persons who face incarceration must defend themselves without adequate legal assistance." Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 344 (1980). Ineffective assistance of counsel, then, is cause for a procedural default. However, we think that the exhaustion
It is clear that respondent failed to show or even allege cause for his procedural default under this standard for cause, which Engle squarely supports. Respondent argues nevertheless that his case is not controlled by Engle because it involves a procedural default on appeal rather than at trial. Respondent does not dispute, however, that the cause and prejudice test applies to procedural defaults on appeal, as we plainly indicated in Reed v. Ross, 468 U. S., at 11. Reed, which involved a claim that was defaulted on appeal, held that a habeas petitioner could establish cause for a procedural default if his claim is "so novel that its legal basis is not reasonably
The distinction respondent would have us draw must therefore be made, if at all, in terms of the content of the cause requirement as applied to procedural defaults on appeal. Accordingly, respondent asks us to affirm the Court of Appeals' judgment on the narrow ground that even if counsel's ignorance or inadvertence does not constitute cause for a procedural default at trial, it does constitute cause for a procedural default on appeal. In support of this distinction, respondent asserts that the concerns that underlie the cause and prejudice test are not present in the case of defaults on appeal. A default on appeal, he maintains, does not detract from the significance of the trial or from the development of a full trial record, or deprive the trial court of an opportunity to correct error without the need for retrial. Moreover, unlike the rapid pace of trial, in which it is a matter of necessity that counsel's decisions bind the defendant, "the appellate process affords the attorney time for reflection, research, and full consultation with his client." Brief for Respondent 19. Finally, respondent suggests that there is no likelihood that an attorney will preserve an objection at trial yet choose to withhold it on appeal in order to "sandbag" the prosecution by raising the claim on federal habeas if relief is denied by the state courts.
These arguments are unpersuasive. A State's procedural rules serve vital purposes at trial, on appeal, and on state collateral attack. The important role of appellate procedural rules is aptly captured by the Court's description in Reed v. Ross of the purposes served by the procedural rule at issue there, which required the defendant initially to raise his legal claims on appeal rather than on postconviction review:
These legitimate state interests, which are manifestly furthered by the comparable procedural rule at issue in this case, warrant our adherence to the conclusion to which they led the Court in Reed v. Ross — that the cause and prejudice test applies to defaults on appeal as to those at trial.
We likewise believe that the standard for cause should not vary depending on the timing of a procedural default or on the strength of an uncertain and difficult assessment of the relative magnitude of the benefits attributable to the state procedural rules that attach at each successive stage of the judicial process. "Each State's complement of procedural rules . . . channel[s], to the extent possible, the resolution of various types of questions to the stage of the judicial process at which they can be resolved most fairly and efficiently." Id., at 10. It is apparent that the frustration of the State's interests that occurs when an appellate procedural rule is broken is not significantly diminished when counsel's breach results from ignorance or inadvertence rather than a deliberate decision, tactical or not, to abstain from raising the claim. Failure to raise a claim on appeal reduces the finality of appellate proceedings, deprives the appellate court of an opportunity to review trial error, and "undercut[s] the State's ability to enforce its procedural rules." Engle, 456 U. S., at 129. As with procedural defaults at trial, these costs are imposed on the State regardless of the kind of attorney error that led to the procedural default. Nor do we
The real thrust of respondent's arguments appears to be that on appeal it is inappropriate to hold defendants to the errors of their attorneys. Were we to accept that proposition, defaults on appeal would presumably be governed by a rule equivalent to Fay v. Noia's "deliberate bypass" standard, under which only personal waiver by the defendant would require enforcement of a procedural default. We express no opinion as to whether counsel's decision not to take an appeal at all might require treatment under such a standard, see Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U. S., at 88, n. 12, but, for the reasons already given, we hold that counsel's failure to raise a particular claim on appeal is to be scrutinized under the cause and prejudice standard when that failure is treated as a procedural default by the state courts. Attorney error short of ineffective assistance of counsel does not constitute cause for a procedural default even when that default occurs on appeal rather than at trial. To the contrary, cause for a procedural default on appeal ordinarily requires a showing of some external impediment preventing counsel from constructing or raising the claim.
Concurring in the judgment, JUSTICE STEVENS contends that our decision today erects an unwarranted procedural
At the outset, it should be noted that this balancing is more apparent than real, for the concurrence makes plain that the controlling consideration must be whether the petitioner was denied " `fundamental fairness in the state-court proceedings.' " Post, at 506, n. 13 (quoting Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 547, n. 17 (1982) (STEVENS, J., dissenting)). And, while JUSTICE STEVENS argues at some length that an appellate default should be given less weight than a trial default in applying the balancing process he proposes, it is hard to believe that this distinction would make any difference given his simultaneous insistence on "carefully preserv[ing] the exception which enables the federal writ to grant relief in cases of manifest injustice," post, at 515 — an exception that he clearly would endorse regardless of the timing of the default.
The effect of such a reworking of the cause and prejudice test would essentially be to dispense with the requirement that the petitioner show cause and instead to focus exclusively on whether there has been a "manifest injustice" or a denial of "fundamental fairness." We are not told whether this inquiry would require the same showing of actual prejudice that is required by the cause and prejudice test as interpreted in Engle and in United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152 (1982), but the thrust of the concurrence leaves little doubt that this is so. The showing of prejudice required under
As the concurrence acknowledges, Engle expressly rejected this contention that a showing of actual prejudice "should permit relief even in the absence of cause." 456 U. S., at 134, n. 43. It may be true that the former Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, as interpreted in Shotwell Mfg. Co. v. United States, 371 U.S. 341 (1963), and Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233 (1973), treated prejudice as a component of the inquiry into whether there was cause for noncompliance with that rule. But, while the cause and prejudice test adopted in Wainwright v. Sykes finds its antecedents in cases interpreting Rule 12(b)(2), the Court in Wainwright v. Sykes declared that it was applying "the rule of Francis v. Henderson . . . barring federal habeas review absent a showing of `cause' and `prejudice' attendant to a state procedural waiver." 433 U. S., at 87. In Francis, the Court could not have been clearer that both cause and prejudice must be shown, at least in a habeas corpus proceeding challenging a state court conviction. 425 U. S., at 542 (requiring "not only a showing of `cause' for the defendant's failure to challenge the composition of the grand
Moreover, although neither Francis nor Wainwright v. Sykes involved a constitutional claim that directly called into question the accuracy of the determination of the petitioner's guilt, the defaulted claims in Engle, no less than respondent's claim in this case, did involve issues bearing on the reliability of the verdict. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970), which was "the basis for [the prisoners'] constitutional claim" in Engle, supra, at 131, holds that "the Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged." Winship, supra, at 364. In Ivan V. v. City of New York, 407 U.S. 203, 205 (1972) (per curiam), the Court held the rule in Winship to be retroactive, because "the major purpose of the constitutional standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt announced in Winship was to overcome an aspect of a criminal trial that substantially impairs the truth-finding function." Consequently, our rejection in Engle of the contention advanced today — that cause need not be shown if actual prejudice is shown — is fully applicable to constitutional claims that call into question the reliability of an adjudication of legal guilt.
However, as we also noted in Engle, "[i]n appropriate cases" the principles of comity and finality that inform the concepts of cause and prejudice "must yield to the imperative of correcting a fundamentally unjust incarceration." 456 U. S., at 135. We remain confident that, for the most part, "victims of a fundamental miscarriage of justice will meet the
There is an additional safeguard against miscarriages of justice in criminal cases, and one not yet recognized in state criminal trials when many of the opinions on which the concurrence relies were written. That safeguard is the right to effective assistance of counsel, which, as this Court has indicated, may in a particular case be violated by even an isolated error of counsel if that error is sufficiently egregious and prejudicial. United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 657, n. 20 (1984). See also Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S., at 693-696. The presence of such a safeguard may properly inform this Court's judgment in determining "[w]hat standards should govern the exercise of the habeas court's equitable discretion" with respect to procedurally defaulted claims, Reed v. Ross, 468 U. S., at 9. The ability to raise ineffective assistance claims based in whole or in part on counsel's procedural defaults substantially undercuts any predictions of unremedied manifest injustices. We therefore remain of the view that adherence to the cause and prejudice test "in the conjunctive," Engle, supra, at 134, n. 43, will not prevent federal habeas courts from ensuring the "fundamental fairness [that] is the central concern of the writ of habeas corpus." Strickland v. Washington, supra, at 697.
The cause and prejudice test may lack a perfect historical pedigree. But the Court acknowledged as much in Wainwright v. Sykes, noting its "historic willingness to overturn or modify its earlier views of the scope of the writ, even where the statutory language authorizing judicial action has remained unchanged." 433 U. S., at 81. The cause and prejudice test as interpreted in Engle and in our decision
Respondent has never alleged any external impediment that might have prevented counsel from raising his discovery claim in his petition for review, and has disavowed any claim that counsel's performance on appeal was so deficient as to make out an ineffective assistance claim. See generally Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387 (1985) (right to effective assistance of counsel applies on an appeal as of right). Respondent's petition for federal habeas review of his procedurally defaulted discovery claim must therefore be dismissed for failure to establish cause for the default, unless it is determined on remand that the victim's statements contain material that would establish respondent's actual innocence.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
The heart of this case is a prisoner's claim that he was denied access to material that might have established his innocence. The significance of such a claim can easily be lost in a procedural maze of enormous complexity.
The nature of the prisoner's claim, and its importance, would be especially easy to overlook in this case because the case involves at least four possible procedural errors. A Virginia trial judge may have erroneously denied respondent's counsel access to statements that the victim had made to the police. The Virginia Supreme Court did not address this issue because, although respondent's counsel included it in the assignment of errors in his "notice of appeal," he omitted it from his "petition for appeal." In a subsequent federal habeas corpus proceeding, the District Court held that the
This Court now reverses, holding that there is no need for a hearing on counsel's motivation and that, instead, the District Court should determine whether there is merit to the habeas corpus application by making an examination of the victim's statements. I concur in its judgment remanding the case for further proceedings on the substance of the claim, and dispensing with the procedural hearing ordered by the Court of Appeals; I disagree, however, with much of what the Court has written about "cause and prejudice," as well as with its announcement of a new standard to govern the District Court's ultimate disposition of the case.
The character of respondent's constitutional claim should be central to an evaluation of his habeas corpus petition. Before and during his trial on charges of rape and abduction, his counsel made timely motions for discovery of the statements made by the victim to the police. By denying those motions, the trial court significantly curtailed the defendant's ability to cross-examine the prosecution's most important witness, and may well have violated the defendant's right to review "evidence favorable to an accused upon request . . . where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment." Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). That right is unquestionably protected by the Due Process Clause. Ibid. See also United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667 (1985); United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97 (1976). Indeed, the
The constitutional claim advanced by respondent calls into question the accuracy of the determination of his guilt. On the record before us, however, we cannot determine whether or not he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Respondent argues that the trial court's analysis was severely flawed.
As the statute suggests, the central mission of the Great Writ should be the substance of "justice," not the form of procedures. As Justice Frankfurter explained in his separate opinion in Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 498 (1953):
Accordingly, the statutory mandate to "dispose of the matter as law and justice require" clearly requires at least some consideration of the character of the constitutional claim.
In my opinion, the "cause and prejudice" formula that the Court explicates in such detail today is not dispositive when the fundamental fairness of a prisoner's conviction is at issue. That formula is of recent vintage, particularly in comparison to the writ for which it is invoked. It is, at most, part of a broader inquiry into the demands of justice.
Rule 12(b)(2) specifies the procedure for asserting defenses and objections based on defects in the institution of a federal prosecution. Until part of the Rule was shifted to Rule 12(f), Rule 12(b)(2) expressly provided that the failure to follow the specified procedure in presenting any such defense or objection "constitutes waiver thereof"; the Rule included a proviso authorizing the court to grant relief from the waiver "for cause shown."
The term "prejudice" was not used in Rule 12(b)(2). In construing the rule in Shotwell Mfg. Co. v. United States, 371 U.S. 341 (1963), however, the Court decided that a consideration of the prejudice to the defendant, or the absence thereof, was an appropriate component of the inquiry into whether there was "cause" for excusing the waiver that had resulted from the failure to follow the Rule.
In Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233 (1973), the Court held that "the sort of express waiver provision contained in Rule 12(b)(2) which specifically provides for the waiver of a particular kind of constitutional claim if it be not timely asserted," id., at 239-240, bars a challenge, absent "cause," to the composition of the grand jury not only on direct federal review, but also in a federal habeas challenge to a federal conviction. Thus, in Davis, as in Shotwell, the Court simply enforced a federal rule that contained an express waiver provision. Notably, in Davis, the Court again considered both cause and prejudice as part of a single inquiry. 411 U. S., at 243-245.
The Davis holding, in turn, provided the basis for the Court's decision in Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536 (1976). In that case, the Court reviewed a Louisiana rule similar to the Federal Rule at issue in Davis and a similar constitutional claim. Relying on Davis, the Court held that the state prisoner, having failed to make a timely challenge to the grand jury that indicted him, could not challenge his state conviction in a federal habeas corpus proceeding without making a showing of both "cause" for the failure and "actual prejudice." The Court cited the Davis cause-and-prejudice
Davis and Francis then provided the basis for the conclusion in Wainwright v. Sykes, supra, that the failure to make a contemporaneous objection to the admission of evidence at trial will ordinarily bar a postconviction attack on the use of such evidence absent an appropriate showing of cause and prejudice. However, the Court's opinion in Wainwright v. Sykes carefully avoided any rigid definition of the terms "cause" and "prejudice" — terms which under Rule 12 had been used to identify two components of a single inquiry to determine whether an express waiver should be excused. Indeed, in Wainwright, the Court made very clear that, although "cause and prejudice" structured a court's inquiry, they were not rigid procedural rules that prevented the writ's fundamental mission — serving justice — from being realized: "The `cause-and-prejudice' exception of the Francis rule will afford an adequate guarantee, we think, that the rule will not prevent a federal habeas court from adjudicating for the first time the federal constitutional claim of a defendant who in the absence of such an adjudication will be the victim of a miscarriage of justice." 433 U. S., at 90-91. In Wainwright itself, the Court inquired into both cause and prejudice; the prejudice inquiry, of course, required some inquiry into the nature of the claim and its effect on the trial. Id., at 91.
In a recent exposition of the "cause and prejudice" standard, moreover, the Court again emphasized that "cause and prejudice" must be considered within an overall inquiry into justice. In Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107 (1982), the Court closed its opinion with the assurance that it would not allow its judge-made "cause" and "actual prejudice" standard to become so rigid that it would foreclose a claim of this kind:
In order to be faithful to that promise, we must recognize that cause and prejudice are merely components of a broader inquiry which, in this case, cannot be performed without an examination of the victim's statements.
An inquiry into the requirements of justice requires a consideration, not only of the nature and strength of the constitutional claim, but also of the nature and strength of the state procedural rule that has not been observed. In its opinion today, the Court relies heavily on cases in which the defendant failed to make a contemporaneous objection to an error that occurred during a trial. Most of the reasons for finding a waiver in that setting simply do not apply to the appellate process. Of special importance is the fact that the state interest in enforcing its contemporaneous-objection rule is supported, not merely by the concern with finality that characterizes state appellate rules, but also by the concern with making the trial the "main event" in which the issue of guilt or innocence can be fairly resolved.
This Court has not often considered procedural defaults that have occurred at the appellate, rather than trial, level.
In Daniels, one of the three cases that gave rise to the opinions in Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443 (1953), two petitioners challenged their convictions and death sentences on the ground that the trial judge had erroneously denied their timely objection to the admission of allegedly coerced confessions and to the alleged discrimination against blacks in the selection of both grand and petit jurors. See id., at 453. After the trial court entered judgment and pronounced its sentence, the petitioners filed a notice of appeal and were granted 60 days in which to serve a statement of the case on opposing counsel. As a result of the negligence or inadvertence of petitioners' counsel, the statement was not served on the prosecutor until the 61st day and petitioners' right to appeal was lost. The State Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to review the merits of their appeal.
For reasons that are ambiguous at best,
With respect to the specific argument that the Court should not permit federal habeas corpus to be used as a substitute for a state appeal, Justice Frankfurter similarly responded:
Thus, in their Daniels dissents, both Justice Black and Justice Frankfurter vigorously disagreed with the Court's view that the petitioners' appellate default — their failure to file a timely appeal — barred review of a meritorious constitutional claim.
As noted, the view of the Daniels Court on the propriety of federal habeas proceedings after a procedural default was repudiated in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391 (1963), a case which also concerned an appellate default. Noia had made a timely objection to the admissibility of his confession in his trial on a charge of felony murder, but he allowed the time for a direct appeal to lapse without seeking review by a New York appellate court. In response to his subsequent application for a federal writ of habeas corpus, the State admitted that his conviction rested on a confession that had been obtained from him in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, but contended that his failure to appeal foreclosed any relief in the federal courts. This Court rejected that contention. In a comprehensive opinion the Court restated three propositions of law that have not thereafter been questioned; the Noia opinion also, however, contained certain dicta that has been qualified by later opinions.
The propositions that Noia firmly established are these: First, the power of the federal district court to issue the writ of habeas corpus survives an adverse decision by a state court, whether the state judgment is based on a review of the
The dicta in the Noia opinion that has been questioned was an attempt to prescribe a rather rigid limitation on the district court's discretion to deny habeas corpus relief based on the applicant's procedural default. The opinion set forth a standard that seemingly required federal judges to excuse every procedural default unless the habeas applicant had personally approved of his lawyer's deliberate decision to bypass an available state procedure.
Finally, in Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1 (1984), we again considered the consequences of an appellate procedural default. The defendant had not raised the constitutional error in his appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Relying on Fay v. Noia, we reaffirmed that the federal court has power to look beyond the state procedural default and entertain the state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus.
In the Reed opinion we carefully identified the valid state interest that is served by enforcing a procedural default that forecloses state appellate review of a federal constitutional claim, id., at 10-11; ante, at 490-491. But we squarely held that this interest is not sufficient to defeat a meritorious federal claim:
We thus concluded that the appellate default would not bar federal consideration of the constitutional claim.
Like the Daniels dissenters, then, in Fay and in Reed, against the backdrop of appellate defaults, the Court stressed that the State's interest in finality does not preclude review of the federal constitutional claim in a federal habeas court. To be sure, these opinions suggested that the power to hear claims which had been defaulted on appeal should be used sparingly — in "special circumstances," in the absence of "deliberate bypass," upon a showing of "cause." Even under such terms, however, our holding in Reed governs the case before us today. If the State's interest in the finality of its judgment is not sufficient to defeat a meritorious federal claim that was not raised on appeal because the prisoner's
Procedural default that is adequate to foreclose appellate review of a claim of constitutional error in a state criminal trial should ordinarily also bar collateral review of such a claim in a federal district court. But the history of the Court's jurisprudence interpreting the Acts of Congress authorizing the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus unambiguously requires that we carefully preserve the exception which enables the federal writ to grant relief in cases of manifest injustice. That exception cannot be adequately defined by a simply stated rule. The procedural default is always an important factor to be carefully reviewed; as Justice Frankfurter explained: "All that has gone before is not to be ignored as irrelevant." Brown v. Allen, 344 U. S., at 500. But it is equally clear that the prisoner must always have some opportunity to reopen his case if he can make a sufficient showing that he is the victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Whether the inquiry is channeled by the use of the terms "cause" and "prejudice" — or by the statutory duty to "dispose of the matter as law and justice require," 28 U. S. C. § 2243 — it is clear to me that appellate procedural default should not foreclose habeas corpus review of a meritorious constitutional claim that may establish the prisoner's innocence.
The Court is therefore entirely correct in its decision to remand the case for further proceedings on the substance of respondent's claim. Ante, at 497. Because we did not grant certiorari to consider the proper standard that should govern the further proceedings in the District Court, and because we
Accordingly, I concur in the judgment but not in the Court's opinion.
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting.
Like the Great Writ from which it draws its essence, see Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 126 (1982), the root principle underlying 28 U. S. C. § 2254 is that government in a civilized society must always be accountable for an individual's imprisonment; if the imprisonment does not conform to the fundamental requirements of law, the individual is entitled to his immediate release. Of course, the habeas corpus relief available under § 2254 differs in many respects from its common-law counterpart. Most significantly, the scope of the writ has been adjusted to meet changed conceptions of the kind of criminal proceedings so fundamentally defective as to make imprisonment under them unacceptable. See, e. g., Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86 (1923); Johnson v.
The "cause and prejudice" rule of Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977), is one such procedural limitation. A judicially created restriction that is not required — or even suggested — by the habeas statute itself, the "cause and prejudice" rule is sometimes thought to represent an application of the familiar principle that this Court will decline to review state-court judgments which rest on independent and adequate state grounds, even where those judgments also decide federal questions. To be sure, the fact that a state-court judgment rests on a purely procedural ground may preclude direct Supreme Court review of that judgment where, as applied, the state procedural rule furthers a legitimate interest. See Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 447-449 (1965). However, in Fay v. Noia, supra, the doctrine that procedural defaults may constitute an independent and adequate state-law ground was held not to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts under the habeas corpus statute. Id., at 426-435. That conclusion has subsequently been reaffirmed on several occasions. See Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536, 538 (1976); Wainwright v. Sykes, supra, at 83, Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 9 (1984).
Despite the existence of federal power to entertain a habeas petition in the face of a procedural default, the Court in Fay v. Noia acknowledged "a limited discretion" in the federal court to refuse to exercise its jurisdiction on behalf of "an applicant who has deliberately by-passed the orderly procedure of the state courts and in doing so has forfeited his state court remedies." 372 U. S., at 438. This exception was recognized "[a]s a matter of comity," Wainwright v. Sykes,
The general principles for deciding whether abstention is proper are well established. "Abstention from the exercise of federal jurisdiction is the exception, not the rule." Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813 (1976). As we have previously noted, " `[t]he doctrine of abstention . . . is an extraordinary and narrow exception to the duty of a District Court to adjudicate a controversy properly before it.' " Ibid. (quoting Allegheny County v. Frank Mashuda Co., 360 U.S. 185, 188 (1959)). Where Congress has granted individuals the right to a federal forum, we cannot deny that right simply because we disagree with Congress' determination that federal review is desirable. Rather, abstention must be justified by weighty concerns of comity and judicial administration, and even then abstention should not be ordered without a careful balancing of those concerns against concerns favoring the exercise of federal jurisdiction. Cf. Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452,
These principles apply as much to abstention from the exercise of federal habeas corpus jurisdiction as to any other area of federal jurisdiction. For while Congress did leave the federal courts considerable latitude to shape the availability of the writ, Congress did not issue this Court a mandate to sharpen its skills at ad hoc legislating. The same rules of construction that guide interpretation of other statutes apply to the federal habeas corpus statute. Accordingly, the decision whether to direct federal courts to withhold habeas jurisdiction clearly conferred upon them by Congress must be made with the understanding that such abstention doctrines constitute " `extraordinary and narrow' " exceptions to the "virtually unflagging obligation" of federal courts to exercise their jurisdiction, Colorado River Water Construction District v. United States, supra, at 813, 817 (quoting Allegheny County v. Frank Mashuda Co., supra, at 188). Moreover, judicial renouncement of federal habeas corpus jurisdiction can take place only after careful consideration of the competing interests militating for and against the exercise of federal jurisdiction, and the presumption is heavily in favor of exercising federal jurisdiction. 424 U. S., at 817.
The competing interests implicated by a prisoner's petition to a federal court to review the merits of a procedurally defaulted constitutional claim are easily identified. On the one hand, "there is Congress' expressed interest in providing a federal forum for the vindication of the constitutional rights of state prisoners." Reed v. Ross, 468 U. S., at 10. In enacting § 2254, "Congress sought to `interpose the federal courts between the States and the people, as guardians of the people's federal rights — to protect the people from unconstitutional action.' " Ibid. (quoting Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 242 (1972)). This interest is at its strongest
These interests must be weighed against the State's interest in maintaining the integrity of its rules and proceedings, an interest that would be undermined if the federal courts were too free to ignore procedural forfeitures in state court. 468 U. S., at 10. The criminal justice system in each State is structured both to determine the guilt or innocence of defendants and to resolve all questions incident to that determination, including the constitutionality of the procedures leading to the verdict. Each State's complement of procedural rules facilitates this process by "channeling, to the extent possible, the resolution of various types of questions to the stage of the judicial process at which they can be resolved most fairly and efficiently." Ibid. Procedural default rules protect the integrity of this process by imposing a forfeiture sanction for failure to follow applicable state procedural rules, thereby deterring litigants from deviating from the State's scheme. Generally, the threat of losing the right to raise a claim in state proceedings will be sufficient to ensure compliance with the State's procedural rules: a defendant loses nothing by raising all of his claims at trial since the state-court judgment will have no res judicata effect in later habeas proceedings, Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443 (1953), while he retains the possibility of obtaining relief in the state courts. See Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U. S., at 103-104, and n. 5 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). Nonetheless, to the extent that federal habeas review of a procedurally defaulted claim is available, the broad deterrent effect of these procedural default rules is somewhat diminished.
The Court struck a somewhat different balance 14 years later when it revisited the question of withholding federal habeas jurisdiction of procedurally defaulted claims in Wainwright v. Sykes. Police officers testified at Sykes' trial about inculpatory statements he had made in their presence. No objection was made at the time this testimony was offered, which meant, under a state procedural rule, that any objections were forfeited. Subsequently, Sykes filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the federal court, asserting that his statements were inadmissible because he had not understood his Miranda warnings. The District Court granted the writ, but this Court reversed, holding that the District Court should never have entertained Sykes' habeas petition at all. Rejecting "the sweeping language of Fay v. Noia," the Court concluded that Fay's deliberate bypass test paid insufficient respect to the State's interests — viewed through the prism of federalism and comity concerns — in seeing its procedural default rules enforced. 433 U. S., at 87-88. The Court held instead that federal courts should decline to exercise their habeas jurisdiction absent a stronger showing by the prisoner that federal review is appropriate. Specifically, the Court held that federal habeas review of a procedurally defaulted claim should ordinarily be withheld unless the petitioner
The Court left open "for resolution in future decisions the precise definition of the `cause'-and-`prejudice' standard," ibid., noting only that "it is narrower than the standard set forth," ibid., in Fay v. Noia, and suggesting that, as such, it would provide a better balance between the interests of a petitioner and those of the State, id., at 88-91. I thought then that Wainwright v. Sykes was wrongly decided, and I continue to believe so for the reasons I stated there and in subsequent cases. See Wainwright v. Sykes, supra, at 99-118 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting); Engle v. Isaac, 456 U. S., at 137-151 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting); United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 178-187 (1982) (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). But at least the Court in Wainwright v. Sykes was prudent enough to leave the task of defining "cause" and "prejudice" to subsequent cases. For, to the extent that the availability of federal habeas review of procedurally defaulted claims turns on the cause-and-prejudice test,
The particular question we must decide in this case is whether counsel's inadvertent failure to raise a substantive claim of error can constitute "cause" for the procedural default.
I believe that this incremental state interest simply is not sufficient to overcome the heavy presumption against a federal court's refusing to exercise jurisdiction clearly granted by Congress. This is especially so where the petitioner has satisfied the prejudice prong of the Wainwright v. Sykes test. That is, where a petitioner's constitutional rights have been violated and that violation may have affected the verdict, a federal court should not decline to entertain a habeas petition solely out of deference to the State's weak interest in punishing lawyers' inadvertent failures to comply with state
Even if I did not believe that this difference in the State's interests was sufficient to require holding that counsel's inadvertence constitutes cause, there is an additional difference in the defendant's interests that compels this conclusion in Smith v. Murray: the fact that it is a capital case. To the extent that, as I have argued above, the definition of cause requires consideration of the interests of the defendant as well as of the State, it strikes me as cruelly unfair to bind a defendant to his lawyer's inadvertent failure to prevent prejudicial constitutional error — thus barring access to federal
"Defenses and objections based on defects in the institution of the prosecution or in the indictment or information other than that it fails to show jurisdiction in the court or to charge an offense may be raised only by motion before trial. . . . Failure to present any such defense or objection as herein provided constitutes a waiver thereof, but the court for cause shown may grant relief from the waiver." See 371 U. S., at 362.
Rule 12 has been amended since 1963 but it retains the provision for an express waiver subject to the proviso that "the court for cause shown may grant relief from the waiver." See Rule 12(f).
"The notion that a client must always consent to a tactical decision not to assert a constitutional objection to a proffer of evidence has always seemed unrealistic to me. Conversely, if the constitutional issue is sufficiently grave, even an express waiver by the defendant himself may sometimes be excused. Matters such as the competence of counsel, the procedural context in which the asserted waiver occurred, the character of the constitutional right at stake, and the overall fairness of the entire proceeding, may be more significant than the language of the test the Court purports to apply." Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 94-96 (1977) (footnotes omitted; emphasis added).
"The failure of otherwise competent defense counsel to raise an objection at trial is often a reliable indication that the defendant was not denied fundamental fairness in the state-court proceedings. The person best qualified to recognize such error is normally a defendant's own lawyer. Thus, in searching for fundamental unfairness in a trial record, I attach great importance to the character of the objection, if any, asserted by the defendant's counsel. But if such error is manifest, I would not wrestle with terms such as `cause' and `prejudice' to determine whether habeas corpus relief should be granted."
"Language in Mr. Justice Reed's opinion for the Court appeared to support the result alternatively in terms of waiver, failure to exhaust state remedies, and the existence of an adequate state ground. But while the explanation may have been ambiguous, the result was clear: habeas corpus would not lie for a prisoner who was detained pursuant to a state judgment which, in the view of the majority in Daniels, rested on a reasonable application of the State's own procedural requirements." Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 461-462 (1963) (dissenting opinion) (footnotes omitted).
"We have no occasion today to consider the Fay rule as applied to the facts there confronting the Court. . . .
"The Court in Fay stated its knowing-and-deliberate-waiver rule in language which applied not only to the waiver of the right to appeal, but to failures to raise individual substantive objections in the state trial." Id., at 88, n. 12.
The same is true of the Court's other habeas corpus bogeymen, such as the tendency of habeas review to detract from the importance of the trial as the "main event," Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 90 (1977), and to frustrate the State's "good-faith attempts to honor constitutional rights," Engle v. Isaac, supra, at 128. These "costs" are present whenever a claim has been denied by the state court on the merits in precisely the same way and to precisely the same extent as where that claim is denied on procedural default grounds. Indeed, if anything, these "costs" are present to a greater extent where a federal court reviews a constitutional claim that the state court has considered and rejected. Therefore, if federal jurisdiction is to be renounced where there has been a procedural default, it must be because of some particular need to enforce the State's procedural default rules.
While reversing the holding of the Court of Appeals that counsel's inadvertence establishes "cause," the Court goes on to declare that "where a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent, a federal court may grant the writ even in the absence of a showing of cause for the procedural default." Ante, at 496. Under such circumstances, the Court explains, "the principles of comity and finality that inform the concepts of cause and prejudice `must yield to the imperative of correcting a fundamentally unjust incarceration.' " Ante, at 495 (quoting Engle v. Isaac, supra, at 135). Although I believe that principles of "comity" and "finality" yield upon far less than a showing of actual innocence, because this inquiry represents a narrowing of the "cause and prejudice" test, I agree that it is proper.