By Marcus Fields

Is the Denial of a Motion Attacking a Sentence Appealable Absent a Certificate of Appealability?

A district court’s order denying relief on a prisoner’s 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion attacking a federal sentence is not appealable unless a Circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of admissibility pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). Today, in United States v. Anderson, the Fourth Circuit denied a certificate of admissibility and dismissed Marion Anderson’s appeal from the district court’s denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion.

A Certificate of Appealability will not be Granted Unless a Constitutional Right has been Denied.

Quoting directly from the statute, the Fourth Circuit notes that “a certificate of appealability will not issue absent ‘a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.’” It then notes that this standard differs depending on whether the district court denies a prisoner relief on the merits or on procedural grounds.   If denied on the merits, the prisoner must only show that “reasonable jurists would find that the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims is debatable or wrong.” If denied on procedural grounds, the prisoner must show that both the procedural ruling and the “claim of the denial of a constitutional right” are debatable.

Anderson did not Make the Showing Necessary to Receive a Certificate of Appealability.

After independently reviewing the record the Fourth Circuit determined that Anderson had not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right and was therefore not entitled to a Certificate of Appealability.

Anderson’s Appeal Dismissed.

The Fourth Circuit denied Anderson a certificate of admissibility and dismissed the appeal. It dispensed with oral arguments determining that they would not help the decisional process.