We have to go back to the story of Cory Maples. He's the guy on death row in Alabama whose lawyers, big-law-fancy-ass-white-shoe-firm-top-tier-law-school-graduated-mega-bucks-an-hour lawyers at Sullivan & Cromwell fucked up big time. (Well, he's one of the guys.)
Here, lifted from one of the earlier posts, is the plot.
Maples is on death row in Alabama. There seems to be no question that he committed the crime that put him there. There seems to be a lot of question, though, about whether he should be killed. The jury wasn't unanimous, but it was enough for the judge. Anyhow, because Alabama, alone among the states, doesn't provide any court-appointed counsel to pursue issues that weren't raised at trial, folks like Maples end up represented by volunteer lawyers. Most of those volunteers are from out-of-state.
Maples hit the big time. He got the services of Sullivan & Cromwell, a big, respectable, white-shoe New York based law firm. Firms like S & C do this stuff pro bono. They pump big bucks and lots of associate time into the cases. They can do spectacular work.
Or the associates working on the case can leave the firm, the new associates assigned can forget to enter an appearance, the firm's mail room can return unopened the notices (two of them) from the court in Alabama saying that Cory lost, and the deadline can pass for filing the notice of appeal.
S & C tried to fix it. Nope, said the courts of Alabama. Deadlines are deadlines.
As Alabama goes, so goes the 11th Circuit. Over and done. Too bad. But rules are rules.
It's a continuing debate: Fairness v. Finality. But that's on paper, in courts and law reviews and law schools.
In the real world it's a different story. It's a guy who got fucked.
Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Maples v. Allen. That's a good sign. But it takes 4 votes to agree to hear it. It takes 5 for Maples to win.
So just maybe.
But only maybe.