Supreme Court Rules That Death-Row Inmate Abandoned By His Attorneys Deserves New Hearing

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that Cory Maples, a death-row inmate in Alabama, deserves a new hearing after his attorneys stopped representing him without notifying him or court officials. Their departure led to a mistake in the law firm’s mailroom that ended in no one at the firm receiving notice of an adverse ruling against Maples. By the time Maples learned that the Alabama court had rejected his appeal, the deadline to appeal the ruling had passed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority’s ruling that the state and federal courts should have allowed his appeal. The court drew a distinction between Maples’ extreme situation and a lawyer’s mistake, which cannot be grounds for a new hearing. “A markedly different situation is presented, however, when an attorney abandons his client without notice, and thereby occasions the default,” Ginsburg wrote.