Published on: Thursday, January 6, 2022

Florida is unable to challenge a federal judge’s appointment of an attorney to represent a death-row inmate during state post-conviction proceedings, the Eleventh Circuit said (article available here).

The court held the state didn’t suffer any injury when the attorney was appointed to represent Stephen Booker and it therefore lacked standing to pursue its objection.

Booker is a Florida death-row inmate who was denied federal relief in 2012. But in 2020, Booker filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida asking for his federal attorney to be appointed to represent him in state post-conviction proceedings to develop a record based on newly discovered evidence.

Florida argued that Booker had a state right to appointed counsel and that he was appointed a lawyer. The federal court nevertheless granted Booker’s motion.

Florida’s argument that there was a potential conflict of interest if Booker’s federal attorney represented him in the state post-conviction proceedings was hypothetical, “not actual or imminent,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said Monday.

The case is Booker v. Sec’y Fla. Dep’t of Corr., No. 20-14539 (11th Cir. Jan. 3, 2022).