- Case Summary

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Modified: 18th Jun 2001
Wordcount: 653 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Case examined whether a habeas application is pending after judgement but before petition for certiorari in the U.S Supreme Court.


Edrick Earl Duncan, a federal prisoner, filed for habeas corpus relief in the Federal Court. While his appeal was pending, he filed a new habeas corpus petition in the District Court. The District Court dismissed Duncan's state petition as abusive and his federal petition as time-barred by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) under which a one-year limitation period applies to federal habeas corpus petitions.

Duncan argued this method of calculation was incorrect under §2244(d)(2), which excludes the time 'during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending.' The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, determining that Duncan’s federal petition stayed pending during the interval between the Court of Appeals’ judgment and the Supreme Court’s denial of his petition for certiorari.


The primary issue was how to interpret 'pending' in the phrase 'application for state post-conviction or other collateral review' under § 2244 of AEDPA. The interpretation of this term significantly impacts when time is tolled under the Act's one-year limitation period for federal habeas corpus petitions.

Another issue was whether the fact the application was rejected on procedural grounds rather than on merit at the state level made any difference to the overarching question of whether the application was 'pending.'


The Duncan v. Walker case has implications for prisoners filing habeas corpus petitions as it provides a statutory interpretation of the term 'pending' under AEDPA section 2244(d)(2). The case limits the rights of prisoners to seek habeas corpus relief and has led to stricter habeas corpus proceedings.

Furthermore, the case serves as an important comment on the Court's role in interpreting the wording of statutes, especially on issues of procedural timing, demonstrating that the Court may take a narrow, literal interpretation rather than a broader one which might favour access to relief.


The U.S Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that a state-court petition is not ‘pending’ during the interval between the conclusion of state-court review and the filing of the petition in this Court because during that interval, the petitioner had no ‘application for State post-conviction review’ before any court. Thus, they reversed the Second Court`s judgment, deciding the limitation period was running while the petition for certiorari of the State-court judgment was pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167 (2001)
  • AEDPA, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2), (1996)

Journalist Brief

In this case, the Supreme Court decided on how to interpret a rule about when state prisoners can appeal to federal courts. They decided that, under AEDPA, the one-year limitation period for federal habeas corpus petitions by state prisoners is not tolled while a petition for certiorari from the denial of a state habeas petition is pending before the U.S Supreme Court. This limits opportunities for prisoners to seek federal review of their cases.


What was the central issue in Duncan v. Walker?

Answer: The central issue was interpreting the term 'pending' in § 2244 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), affecting the timing of state prisoners' ability to file habeas corpus petitions in federal court.

What did the Supreme Court decide in Duncan v. Walker?

Answer: The Supreme Court decided that the limitation period continues to run while a certiorari petition is pending before the Supreme Court, following the denial of a state habeas petition.

What is the significance of this case?

Answer: The case provides a strict interpretation of the AEDPA, limiting the rights of prisoners to seek habeas corpus relief.

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