We reported back in December on the case of Cory Maples, whose ability to appeal his death sentence was denied because the necessary paperwork never reached his pro bono lawyers at Sullivan & Cromwell (S&C).

The US Supreme Court has, in a 7-2 decision, granted Maples’s petition to have his procedural default excused. Ginsburg J, for the majority, found that Maples had essentially been abandoned by his counsel, noting that S&C’s more diligent representation of him after the default was a clear conflict of interest given the firm’s obvious desire to minimise damage to its own reputation. She held that ‘no just system would lay the default at Maples’ death-cell door’. Scalia and Thomas JJ took a different view: Maples had representation throughout, even if it was inept, and the state prosecutors were entitled to stick to the rules.

As for Maples, his appeal is punted back to the 11th Circuit and the district court in Alabama.

[Link available here].