Every now and then we take a break from our parking ticket litigation practice and attempt a federal habe, “the great and efficacious Writ in all manner of illegal confinement.” We duly identified a conscience-shocking constitutional violation, read every Supreme Court and federal case remotely bearing on it and penned an argument that would have persuaded a stone. That was the easy part.
Then we looked up the filing Rules on the federal court Website:
1. An application for a writ of habeas must be made in the appropriate court unless it is not the appropriate court.
2. Failure to file in the appropriate court will result in summary judgment for the other side unless the filing party is the state or its representative in which case whatever court it files in shall be deemed the appropriate court.
3. All filings must conform to Rule 404(f)(iii)(J) unless governed by some other Rule. No other Rule shall apply except for exceptions.
4. All documents must be electronically filed and paper copies are strictly forbidden. Each party must provide 24 copies to the court.
5. The cover of appellant’s brief must be white unless it is required to be blue. The cover of respondent’s brief must be red or yellow, depending. Glitter is strictly prohibited. Unless the party is the state or a representative of the state.
6. An appeal from the denial of an application must be filed within half an hour and must be accompanied by a notarized appendix containing the names and all past, present and future addresses of everyone the appellant went to school with.
7. If the appellant is the state or a representative of the state, the requirements of Rule 6 and all other Rules will be deemed to have been met.
Questions about filing should be addressed to the Court clerk at the number below.
The phone number is to a recorded message saying to read the rules on the Website.
After we somehow managed to file the habeas, naming the then-current state attorney-general as respondent, we received a handwritten letter from an inmate of Camp Sunnybrook Rehabilitation Center asking, “Who is this Eliot Spitzer? I got no beef with him. And what murder conviction?”
The court had sent our habeas papers to someone with the same last name as our client. Even though we’d provided petitioner’s full address at Thunderhead Maximum Security Prison.
The habeas was assigned to a magistrate judge who, after hardly more than three years, issued a report and recommendation written by the summer intern and mailed it to the wrong law firm.
Fortunately, in the meantime, we’d made a successful FOIL request for a phone number that would actually be picked up by someone in the federal courthouse.
We phoned and explained that we were the attorney representing the habeas petitioner, as listed on the blue, white, red and yellow covers, not to mention the 27 other forms we’d had to file.
It was explained to us with some exasperation that we were obviously not the representing attorney, otherwise the report would have been mailed to us.
Two attorney-generals later, we’re still pending.
This is a true story.