Opinions Relating to Orders - 2020

Hernandez v. Peery

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied. JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, dissenting from the denial of certiorari. Petitioner Jacob Townley Hernandez’s former codefendant became a key prosecution witness at Townley’s trial.1 The trial court, however, forbade Townley’s attorney from speaking with his client about the existence or contents of a declaration executed by that witness. Although the State does not dispute that this order unjustifiably interfered with Townley’s constitutional right to consult with his counsel, the California Supreme Court held that reversal of Townley’s convictions would be appropriate only if he could demonstrate prejudice. Townley challenged that decision in federal habeas proceedings, but the District Court denied his petition. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit then refused to issue a certificate of appealability (COA). That was error. Because reasonable jurists could debate whether the District Court should have granted habeas relief on Townley’s Sixth Amendment claim, the Ninth Circuit should have authorized an appeal. I would grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and summarily reverse the order of the Ninth Circuit denying a COA.