West Virginia Law Review

Document Type



In answer to the complaints of numerous federal judges that they were being engulfed by a flood of habeas corpus petitions, Congress in 1948 enacted a complete revision of the habeas corpus provisions of the Judicial Code. Part of this revision was title 28, section 2255, of the United States Code which "restates, clarifies and simplifies the procedure in the nature of the ancient writ of error coram nobis." Adopted upon the recommendation of the Judicial Conference of the United States, its declared purpose was to provide "an expeditious remedy for correcting erroneous sentences without resort to habeas corpus." The ensuing eighteen years have seen no diminution in the concern of federal judges with the burden habeas corpus, and now, section 2255 petitions impose upon them. The purpose of this article will be to suggest that this burden is largely self-imposed, and could be substantially reduced by a procedure whereby assistance of counsel is available in the preparation and drafting of petitions for post-conviction relief. In reviewing the procedural and tactical ramifications of section 2255, reference will frequently be made to a recent survey of petitions for relief under this section in the District of Columbia. Two justifications are offered for reliance upon the statistics of one judicial circuit: (1) no similar survey has been undertaken elsewhere, and (2) because of its general criminal jurisdiction, the D.C. Circuit surpasses all others in the number of section 2255 petitions filed.



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