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Name: Beard v. Kindler
Case #: 08-992
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 12/08/2009
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 612, 175 L.E.2d 417
Summary

Just because a state procedural rule is discretionary, rather than mandatory, does not automatically make it inadequate under the adequate state grounds doctrine and therefore unenforceable on federal habeas review. After defendant was sentenced to death, he filed post-conviction motions challenging his conviction and sentence. But before the motions could be heard, he escaped from custody and absconded, so the court dismissed them. Once recaptured, defendant tried to reinstate the motions, but relief was denied based on the state’s fugitive forfeiture law. Defendant exhausted state law remedies and then sought federal habeas relief. The district court and Third Circuit held the fugitive forfeiture law was not an adequate basis to bar federal habeas relief because it was not firmly established since the state courts had discretion to hear appeals filed by a fugitive. The High Court reversed, finding a discretionary rule can be firmly established and regularly followed even if the exercise of discretion permits consideration of a federal claim in some cases, but not in others.