The Clarence Thomas Catch-22

Today in Shinn v. Ramirez, the Supreme Court held that defendants cannot get a federal hearing for their claims of ineffective counsel if their counsel was too ineffective to present them properly before state courts. I’m serious — that’s the holding:

The opinion was written by the oldest, cruelest reactionary, Clarence Thomas, and drips with palpable authoritarian contempt for the idea of federal constitutional restraints getting in the way of states railroading people into the death chamber:

I mean holy fuck. “Oops, sorry your lawyers suck, but it would cost too much to make sure you’re actually guilty before we electrocute you”??— Akiva Cohen (@AkivaMCohen) May 23, 2022

Also, and this is from the underlying Ninth Circuit decision, fuuuuuuuck this guy, and the prosecutor he rode in on

You’re testifying FOR THE STATE in a DEATH PENALTY case. Your job isn’t to hide this ball unless you’re asked exactly the right question. Tell the fucking truth— Akiva Cohen (@AkivaMCohen) May 23, 2022

I suppose to simply describe all this is to refute it, but Sotomayor angrily adds some detail:

Sotomayor also has a good response to Thomas’s trademark graphic descriptions of the crimes with which the defendants were charged (in one case, the sexual assault and murder of a 4-year-old):

This also another case of the Supreme Court’s “textualists” ignoring the actual language of a statute in favor of a singular “purpose” they attribute to Congress that happens to mirror their own ex ante policy preferences:

And as Sotomayor observes, this provides states with a roadmap for how to effectively nullify Gideon v. Wainwright:

The list of Roberts Court atrocities is getting insanely long — and the 6-3 supermajority is just getting started! — but this is up there. Catch-22s are not consistent with the rule of law.