Author: Federal Public Defender, CDCA

Only issues related to federal constitutional violations (with the exception of Fourth Amendment claims) may be raised in a 2254 petition. The federal court will not consider issues based solely on state law. Also, the federal court cannot consider any claims that were not first presented to the highest state court. You must exhaust all of your state court remedies first...

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Our office cannot represent 2254 habeas petitioners in non-capital cases unless and until we are appointed to the case by the district court.  In capital cases, you are entitled to court-appointed counsel, and an attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office or the CJA habeas panel will be appointed to represent you...

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If you were convicted in state court, you have an automatic right to an appeal in the state court of appeal. You have a right to appointed counsel, and the state court will consider any issues raised by you and your attorney. When you file a federal habeas petition, you may only raise issues related to constitutional violations, and you have no right to the assistance of counsel...

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A 2255 petition may be filed by a person in federal custody to challenge a federal criminal conviction and/or sentence.  Unlike a 2254 petition, which challenges a state-court conviction and/or sentence, a 2255 petition is not limited to federal constitutional claims.  28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides that it may be used to raise claims that your sentence or conviction was unauthorized under any law of the United States...

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The petition may be filed on the form provided by the District Court. Copies of the form and instructions for filing can be obtained from the District Court’s website here.  The petition should be filed in the court of conviction...

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Yes, you have very little time to prepare your federal habeas petition. Generally, a 2255 federal habeas petition must be filed within a year after your federal conviction became final.  A federal conviction usually becomes final (1) on the date the United States Supreme Court denies a petition for writ of certiorari; or (2) if United States Supreme Court review is not sought, 90 days after the federal court of appeals issues its decision or denies rehearing.  Although there are some ways to toll the […]..

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Federal court is more formal than most state courts.  Suits, ties, and other formal wear are not necessary, but shorts, halters, tank tops, any clothing exposing the midriff or underclothing, beachwear, flip-flops, pool shoes, or t-shirts with inappropriate graphics or wording are not recommended...

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Yes. Family support of a criminal defendant is critical, and we strongly encourage family members to attend hearings of their loved ones.  However, family and friends may not speak directly to the judge unless they are asked to do so.  Audience members who are being disruptive will be removed from the courtroom...

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Visitors to the courtroom cannot speak or communicate in any way with a defendant in custody...

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Yes, but every effort should be made to keep young children quiet while court is in session. Some courtroom topics may be inappropriate for young children...

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