Hastings Law Journal


In 1977, the Supreme Court in Wainwright v. Sykes formulated a "causeand- prejudice" test for determining whether the failure of a state prisoner to raise a federal constitutional claim at trial in accordance with state procedures will foreclose federal habeas review. The Court, however, reserved for future resolution the precise definition of this test. In this Article, the authors examine the lower court decisions in the wake of Sykes that have grappled with the "cause-and-prejudice" test as well as the sources of authority that may help to define the terms. The authors conclude that "prejudice" has been interpreted as a variant of the harmless-error doctrine and that "cause" is a variable standard under which the requisite showing of cause diminishes as the possibility of an unjust incarceration increases.

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