Woodrow Wilson Journal of Law, Vol. 7 (1985-1987), pp. 25-44


The days of praise for the Great Writ from all political quarters are over. Today the legal literature includes a growing body of articles lashing out at the modern federal habeas corpus remedy for state prisoners authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and advocating statutory changes to make it more difficult to obtain Section 2254 relief. In the vanguard of these articles are those by conservative political figures or law enforcement officials. In 1984 this criticism of the Section 2254 remedy in scholarly journals arguably reached its zenith, in terms of degree of harshness, when the attorney general of Alabama published an article purporting to "debunk" the Great Writ.

I propose to critique one of these articles attacking the Section 2254 remedy. The article I have chosen was written by Georgia's senior U.S. Senator, Sam A. Nunn, and published in this journal in 1983 [5 Woodrow Wilson J.L. 1]. I have chosen Sen. Nunn's article for several reasons. First, I believe it is beautifully representative of the anti-Section 2254 literature. For example, the article contains a brief statement of the "historical argument" against postconviction habeas corpus relief that has become de rigueur in articles seeking the curtailment of such relief. Second, Sen. Nunn is not only a rising statesman and distinguished political leader; he is also a fellow Georgian and member of the Georgia bar. And it seems important to me that the people of Georgia be fully informed concerning whether, at least in the matter of Section 2254, Sen. Nunn may not have fallen into error for once.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons