SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
RODNEY REED, PETITIONER v.
on writ of certiorari to the united states
court of appeals for the fifth circuit
[April 19, 2023]
Justice Thomas, dissenting.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
(“CCA”) affirmed the denial of petitioner Rodney
Reed’s state-law motion for postconviction DNA testing. Reed
petitioned this Court for certiorari, arguing that the CCA’s
interpretation and application of the relevant state law violated
his federal due process rights. After we denied his petition, Reed
repackaged it as a complaint in Federal District Court, naming
respondent (the Bastrop County District Attorney) as a placeholder
defendant. Like his earlier certiorari petition, Reed’s
complaint assails the CCA’s state-law reasoning as
inconsistent with due process, and it seeks a declaration that the
CCA’s interpretation and application of state law was
Reed’s action should be dismissed for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction. Federal district courts lack
appellate jurisdiction to review state-court judgments, and
Reed’s action presents no original Article III case or
controversy between him and the district attorney. Because the
Court erroneously holds that the District Court had jurisdiction
over Reed’s action, I respectfully dissent.
On April 23, 1996, 19-year-old Stacey Stites
failed to report for her 3:30 a.m. shift at the H.E.B. grocery
store in Bastrop, Texas. The truck Stites drove to work was found
abandoned in the Bastrop High School parking lot a couple of hours
later. That afternoon, a passerby discovered Stites’ body in
a ditch by a country road, her clothing disturbed in a manner
suggesting sexual violence. Medical examiners determined that
Stites had been strangled to death with her own belt, which was
found in two pieces—one near the truck, the other near
Stites’ body. There was semen in Stites’ vagina and
rectum and saliva on her breasts. The police concluded that Stites
had been raped and murdered.
Despite a wide-ranging investigation, the police
were initially unable to find a DNA match for the bodily fluids
recovered from Stites’ corpse. Then, about six months after
Stites’ death, Reed was arrested for kidnaping and attempting
to rape and murder another young woman near the route Stites
typically took to work and around the same time of night when
Stites had gone missing. Reed lived near the high school and was
often seen walking the surrounding area at night. Intrigued, the
police checked Reed’s DNA profile, which Texas had on file
from an earlier sexual-assault case against him. A series of tests
established a conclusive, one-in-the-world-population match between
Reed and the fluids recovered from Stites’ corpse.
When first questioned, Reed insisted that he did
not know Stites at all, unaware that the police had DNA evidence
disproving that claim. By the time of his trial, he had changed his
story: He and Stites were having a consensual affair, and someone
else—perhaps her jealous fiancé—had committed
the murder. The jury rejected that post hoc
found Reed guilty. In the separate penalty phase, Reed’s
kidnaping victim testified about how Reed had abducted, threatened,
and attempted to rape her before she was fortuitously able to
escape. Four other women—and one underage girl—also
testified that Reed had brutally beaten and raped them in the past.
Reed was sentenced to death.
The CCA affirmed Reed’s conviction and
sentence in 2000. In the 23 years since, he has kept up a constant
stream of postconviction filings asserting his innocence. Every few
years, Reed’s lawyers have produced a new theory and a new
purportedly exculpatory affidavit. With the patience of Job, the
Texas courts have duly considered them all. On one such occasion,
the CCA noted “the complete lack of a cohesive theory of
innocence” across Reed’s unending series of attempts to
relitigate his guilt. Ex parte Reed
, 271 S.W.3d 698,
In Texas, a convict has two distinct avenues
to obtain postconviction DNA testing of evidence—one
executive and discretionary, the other judicial and legal. As for
the first, the convict can attempt to reach an agreement with the
district attorney, who has broad discretion to order or allow DNA
testing. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 39–40. In the case of the
second, the convict can file a motion under Tex. Code Crim. Proc.
Ann., Arts. 64.01 through 64.05 (Vernon 2018) (Chapter 64), which
requires “the convicting court” to “order
testing” if the movant establishes certain requirements.
Ex parte Gutierrez
, 337 S.W.3d 883, 889–890 (Tex.
Crim. App. 2011).
In 2014, on the same day that the trial court
held a hearing to set Reed’s execution date, Reed filed a
Chapter 64 motion for DNA testing of a large number of items. The
district attorney consented to test some of the items outside of
the Chapter 64 framework, but he otherwise opposed Reed’s
request. The trial court denied the motion, finding that Reed had
not established two necessary elements for Chapter 64 testing: (1)
that he “would not have been convicted if exculpatory results
had been obtained through DNA testing,” Art. 64.03(a)(2)(A);
and (2) that his Chapter 64 motion was “not made to
unreasonably delay the execution of sentence or administration of
justice.” Art. 64.03(a)(2)(B). Reed appealed, and the CCA
remanded for the trial court to address the other elements of the
Chapter 64 rubric. After making supplemental findings, the trial
court again denied Reed’s motion, and Reed again
In April 2017, the CCA issued an opinion
affirming the trial court. First, the CCA held that the record
supported the trial court’s finding that many of the items
had not “been subjected to a chain of custody sufficient to
establish that [they had] not been substituted, tampered with,
replaced, or altered in any material respect.” Art.
64.03(a)(1)(A)(ii); see Reed
, 541 S.W.3d
759, 769–770. Second, it held that Reed had not shown
“a reasonable likelihood” that many of the items
“contain[ed] biological material suitable for DNA
testing.” Art. 64.03(a)(1)(B); see 541 S. W. 3d, at 772.
Third, addressing only the items that survived the previous two
holdings, the CCA held that Reed had not established that
exculpatory results from DNA testing of those items would have
prevented his conviction. See id.
, at 773–777.
Finally, the CCA held that Reed had failed to establish that his
Chapter 64 motion was not made for purposes of delay. See
, at 777–780. The CCA noted that “Chapter 64
had existed with only slight variations for over thirteen years at
the time Reed filed his motion,” and that Reed’s motion
was suspiciously filed “on the same day the judge heard the
State’s motion to set an execution date.” Id.
Reed moved for rehearing, arguing that the CCA
had misapplied the Chapter 64 elements and asserting, in broad
terms, that those errors violated his due process rights. See App.
to Pet. for Cert. in Reed
, O. T. 2017, No.
17–1093, pp. 263a–272a. The CCA denied rehearing
by summary order in October 2017.
Reed then timely petitioned this Court for a
writ of certiorari to review the CCA’s judgment. His petition
contended that the CCA’s judgment “violate[d his] due
process rights” because it was based on “arbitrary and
fundamentally unfair interpretation[s]” of Chapter 64’s
chain-of-custody and unreasonable-delay elements. Pet. for Cert. in
No. 17–1093, pp. i–ii. We denied certiorari. See
, 585 U. S. ___ (2018).
In August 2019, Reed sued the district
attorney under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C.
§1983 in the U. S. District Court for the Western
District of Texas. As relevant here, Reed’s complaint alleges
that he successfully “proved each of the statutory
requirements of [Chapter] 64” in the state-court proceedings,
App. 31, ¶52, but that “the CCA’s adoption of
non-statutory criteria to preclude . . . Reed from
testing key trial evidence to prove his innocence violate[d]
fundamental notions of fairness and denie[d] him due process of
, at 14, ¶2. Reed proceeds to allege
“several ways” in which “[t]he CCA’s
interpretation and application of [Chapter] 64 violate[d]
fundamental fairness,” id.
, at 41, ¶79, with
particular focus on the CCA’s allegedly arbitrary
constructions of the chain-of-custody, unreasonable-delay, and
exculpatory-results elements, see id.
, at 41–42,
¶¶79–81; 43–45, ¶¶84–87. For
relief, “Reed seeks a declaration that [Chapter] 64, as
interpreted, construed and applied by the Texas courts to deny his
motion for DNA testing, violates his rights under” the
, at 14, ¶3; see also id.
49 (prayer for relief ).
The district attorney moved to dismiss
Reed’s complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and
for failure to state a claim. See Fed. Rule Civ.
Proc. 12(b)(1) and (b)(6). The District Court held that it had
jurisdiction but dismissed Reed’s complaint on the merits,
concluding that Reed had alleged only “that he disagree[d]
with the state court’s construction of Texas law” and
that none of the issues in the complaint “r[ose] to the level
of a procedural due-process violation.” 2019 WL 12073901, *7
(WD Tex., Nov. 15, 2019). The Fifth Circuit affirmed on the
alternative ground that Reed’s claim was untimely: Applying
Texas’ 2-year statute of limitations for personal-injury
claims, it reasoned that Reed’s due process claim accrued
when the trial court first denied his Chapter 64 motion, rendering
his complaint several years too late. 995 F.3d 425, 431 (2021).
Two intertwined principles of federal
jurisdiction—Article III standing and the
]—mandate a finding that the District Court lacked
jurisdiction over this action. The majority gives short shrift to
these principles, and its holding that Reed’s claim was
timely serve only to underscore its antecedent jurisdictional
The Constitution limits the federal
courts’ jurisdiction to “Cases” and
“Controversies,” Art. III, §2, cl. 1,
constraining judicial power to “the determination of real,
earnest and vital controvers[ies] between” contending
litigants. Chicago & Grand Trunk R. Co.
, 143 U.S.
, 345 (1892). “[A]n essential and unchanging part of
[this] case-or-controversy requirement” is the doctrine of
Article III standing. Lujan
v. Defenders of Wildlife
, 560 (1992). Under that doctrine, any party requesting
relief from a federal court must assert “an injury”
that is “concrete, particularized, and actual or
imminent,” and he must show that his injury is both
“fairly traceable to the challenged action” and
“redressable by a favorable ruling.” Monsanto
v. Geertson Seed Farms
, 149 (2010); see also Town of Chester
Laroe Estates, Inc.
, 581 U.S. 433, 438–439 (2017).
Absent that showing, the court has no jurisdiction and thus no
“power to adjudicate the case.” Steel Co.
Citizens for Better Environment
, 523 U.S.
, 89 (1998) (emphasis deleted).
Jurisdiction, moreover, comes in two
types—original and appellate—and the application of the
Article III standing elements is interwoven with that
constitutionally grounded distinction. See Art. III, §2,
cl. 2. In an original case or controversy, the plaintiff
traces his injury “to the defendant’s allegedly
unlawful conduct,” Allen
, 468 U.S.
, 751 (1984), and, correspondingly, seeks a remedy that runs
against the defendant and determines that defendant’s duties
or liabilities (e.g.
, a judgment for money damages or an
injunction). On the other hand, “[t]he criterion which
distinguishes appellate from original jurisdiction, is that it
revises and corrects the decisions of another tribunal.”
Ex parte Bollman
, 4 Cranch 75, 86 (1807); see also
, 1 Cranch 137, 175–176
(1803). As such, a case or controversy is appellate in nature when
the relief-seeking party’s injury is traceable to the
allegedly erroneous action of another court
and requires a
remedy correcting that judicial action (e.g.
, reversal or
vacatur of the challenged judgment).[3
] See, e.g.
, Food Marketing Institute
Argus Leader Media
, 588 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2019)
(slip op., at 4–5); Monsanto
, 561 U. S., at
150–153. Thus, whenever a party seeks relief from a federal
court, the elements that bring his claim within Article III in the
first place—the nature and source of his injury and the
remedy needed to redress it—also dictate whether his claim
invokes original or appellate jurisdiction.
The conceptual distinction between original and
appellate jurisdiction also animates the
doctrine—which, despite its
name, is not so much a “doctrine” as a basic fact of
federal statutory law. This Court has discretionary appellate
jurisdiction to review certain state-court judgments by certiorari.
28 U. S. C. §1257(a). But no other federal court has
appellate jurisdiction over state-court judgments, and, in
particular, “[t]he jurisdiction possessed by the District
Courts is strictly original.” Rooker
, 416 (1923); see, e.g.
, 28 U. S. C.
§1331 (“The district courts shall have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under [federal
law]”). Thus, if the losing party in a state judicial
proceeding “claim[s] that the state judgment itself violates
[his] federal rights”—a claim that calls for an
exercise of appellate jurisdiction—his only remedy in the
federal system is certiorari in this Court. Johnson
, 512 U.S.
, 1006 (1994). He may not “see[k] what in substance
would be appellate review of the state judgment” under the
guise of an original action in federal district court. Id.
at 1005–1006; see also Exxon Mobil Corp.
Basic Industries Corp.
, 544 U.S.
, 284–285 (2005); District of Columbia Court of
, 482–488, and nn. 15, 16 (1983).
Yet, that is precisely what Reed has done here.
While his complaint purports to bring an original action against
the district attorney, in reality, it seeks appellate review to
redress an alleged injury inflicted by the CCA’s adverse
decision “in [his] particular cas[e].” Id.
487, n. 18. The gravamen of Reed’s claim—made
clear again and again throughout his complaint—is that the
CCA violated his due process rights through its reasoning in his
case. See, e.g.
, App. 14, ¶2; 31–33,
¶¶53–57; 38, ¶69; 39–40, ¶¶71,
74; 41, ¶79; 42–43, ¶¶83–84;
44–45, ¶¶86–87. All of those alleged injuries
are traceable to the CCA, not the district attorney. And,
redressing them would require an exercise of appellate jurisdiction
over the CCA—jurisdiction that the District Court does not
have. Confirming the point, Reed’s complaint does not ask the
District Court to control the district attorney’s actions at
all. Instead, the only relief it requests is “[a] declaration
that the CCA’s interpretation and application of [Chapter] 64
. . . is unconstitutional.” Id.
, at 49. The
complaint transparently seeks nothing more than the District
Court’s “review and rejection” of the CCA’s
judgment. Exxon Mobil
, 544 U. S., at 284. As such, it
founders upon the Rooker
doctrine as well as
the Article III traceability and redressability requirements with
which that doctrine is intertwined.
Any doubt that Reed seeks de facto
appellate review should be dispelled by one undisputed fact: Every
due process violation that Reed alleges could have been considered
on direct review of the CCA’s judgment in this Court. After
all, determining whether state-court judgments applied
unconstitutional constructions of state law is a classic use of
this Court’s appellate jurisdiction under §1257(a). See,
, 532 U.S.
, 453 (2001); Bouie
v. City of Columbia
, 349 (1964); Brinkerhoff-Faris Trust & Sav. Co.
, 281 U.S.
, 678 (1930). That is why Reed originally petitioned this
Court for certiorari to review the CCA’s judgment. And it is
why he agreed at oral argument that we could have granted that
petition. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 32–33.
Yet, even after repackaging his failed
certiorari petition as an original §1983 complaint, Reed not
only concedes but affirmatively argues
that his claim is
analogous to the due process arguments presented in Rogers
, and Brinkerhoff-Faris
. See Brief for
Petitioner 33–34. That he is correct on that front should be
fatal to his complaint. Like the petitioners in those cases, Reed
contends that the rules of decision applied against him in a
state-court proceeding violated his due process rights. Because
those contentions would have been appropriate subjects for this
Court’s appellate review, it follows that Reed cannot press
the same due process challenges and seek the same relief in an
original action in the District Court. See Feldman
U. S., at 482–486, and n. 15; accord, id.
at, 489 (Stevens, J., dissenting).
In holding otherwise, the majority improperly
separates the Rooker
and Article III
inquiries and applies a different theory of Reed’s claim to
each. But, Reed’s claim must satisfy two conditions at once:
It must implicate an Article III case or controversy between the
parties to this action, and
that case or controversy must
fall within the District Court’s “strictly
original” jurisdiction. Rooker
, 263 U. S., at
416. The majority articulates no theory of how Reed’s claim
can satisfy both conditions. That is because there is no such
A useful way to view this is to work backwards
from the majority’s Rooker
majority accepts Reed’s representation that he “does
‘not challenge the adverse’ state-court decisions
themselves,” but only “ ‘targets as
unconstitutional the Texas statute [Chapter 64] they
authoritatively construed.’ ” Ante
, at 4
, 532 (2011)). But this workaround to
raises a glaring Article III
problem: As this Court has repeatedly explained, a federal court
may not entertain a free-floating challenge to a statute unmoored
from a concrete case or controversy. See, e.g.
, 593 U. S. ___,
___–___ (2021) (slip op., at 7–9); Valley Forge
v. Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, Inc.
, 454 U.S.
, 471–472 (1982); Massachusetts
, 262 U.S.
, 488 (1923); Muskrat
v. United States
, 360–362 (1911). Unless Reed merely seeks an advisory
opinion, his due process challenge to Chapter 64 must seek relief
from some concrete enforcement or application of that law that
affects him. More specifically, Reed must be challenging either (1)
some conduct of the district attorney constituting enforcement of
Chapter 64 against him or (2) the CCA’s application of
Chapter 64 as a rule of decision in his case.[4
] If it is the former, Reed’s suit is
original; if it is the latter, it requires an exercise of appellate
So, which is it? As already indicated, the
correct answer is the latter: Fundamentally, Reed’s
complaint—like his certiorari petition before
it—contests how “the Texas courts”
“interpreted, construed[,] and applied” Chapter 64
“to deny his motion for DNA testing,” App. 14, ¶3,
which is why the only
relief he requests is an abstract
“declaration that the CCA’s interpretation and
application of [Chapter] 64 . . . is
, at 49. The idea that his claim
“does not challenge the adverse state-court decisions,”
, at 4 (internal quotation marks omitted), cannot
survive even a cursory examination of his complaint. See
, at 9–10.
Nor would the other possibility make any sense.
Reed cannot be seeking relief from the district
enforcement of Chapter 64, because the
district attorney has not enforced that law against Reed at all.
The sum total of the district attorney’s relevant conduct is
as follows. First, he declined to order Reed’s desired
testing in his executive discretion, independent of Chapter 64.
Next, when Reed asked the Texas courts to grant testing under
Chapter 64, the district attorney opposed his motion. Finally,
after Reed’s motion proved unsuccessful, the district
attorney continued to decline to order Reed’s desired
testing. To say that this conduct amounts to enforcing Chapter 64
makes as much sense as saying that a party to a discovery dispute,
who defeats a motion to compel, in effect, “enforces”
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by continuing not to turn over
the demanded documents. Again, any due process injury that Chapter
64 has caused Reed is traceable to the CCA’s judicial
application of that law in his case, not to any executive acts or
omissions of the district attorney.
The majority permits Reed to evade that problem
by framing his Article III injury as the mere lack of access to his
desired evidence, independent of any alleged due process denial.
, at 3. But, if framing Reed’s injury that way
helps with traceability
, it only worsens his
problem. Suppose that the District Court
accepted Reed’s due process arguments and issued his
requested relief: an abstract declaration that the interpretation
of Chapter 64 that the CCA applied in his case is unconstitutional.
How, exactly, would that redress Reed’s injury of not having
the evidence tested? The CCA’s Chapter 64 judgment would
remain untouched; Reed would have obtained an opinion disapproving
its reasoning, but without any appellate “revis[ion] and
correct[ion]” to disturb its finality. Bollman
Cranch, at 86. Nor would a declaration that the CCA’s
construction of Chapter 64 was unconstitutional imply anything
about the district attorney’s
The majority asserts that such a declaration
would cause “ ‘a significant increase in the
likelihood’ ” that the district attorney would
grant Reed’s desired testing. Ante
, at 3 (quoting
, 464 (2002)). But the district attorney has made clear
that he does not understand Reed’s requested relief to
“require any change in conduct” from him and that it is
not “likely to bring about such change.” Brief for
Respondent 38–39. If the majority thinks the district
attorney is wrong about that, it would only be fair to explain
exactly what change in conduct would be legally required of him if
Reed prevailed on his due process claim. The majority fails to do
Instead, it offers a number of vague
pronouncements, all of which wilt under scrutiny. Consider the
claim that Reed’s victory in this action would
“eliminate the [district attorney’s] justification for
denying DNA testing.” Ante
, at 3. If this means that
Reed’s requested relief would entitle him to testing under
Chapter 64, it is wrong because the CCA’s unreversed judgment
would stand as a final, binding determination of Reed’s
Chapter 64 rights even if the District Court were to declare that,
in its opinion, the CCA had applied that law unconstitutionally in
Reed’s case. Alternatively, if the majority means that the
success of Reed’s due process claim would require the
district attorney to permit testing in his independent executive
discretion, it is also wrong because Reed is not challenging the
district attorney’s denial of discretionary testing as
unlawful—only the CCA’s “interpretation and
application of [Chapter] 64.” App. 49.
The majority also misses the mark when it
asserts that it is “substantially likely that the [district
attorney] would abide by [Reed’s requested] court
, at 3 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Again, the only “court order” Reed seeks is a
declaration disapproving the legal underpinnings of the CCA’s
judgment. Such an “order” would have no bearing on the
district attorney’s future conduct; in a literal sense, there
would be nothing for him to “abide by.”
Finally, the majority says that the District
Court “ ‘would have ordered a change in a legal
status’ ” were it to grant the declaration Reed
, 536 U. S., at 464).
The intended meaning of this statement is completely obscure. The
“status” that the majority has in mind cannot be that
of Chapter 64 itself. See California
, 593 U. S., at ___
(slip op., at 8) (explaining that judicial remedies
“ ‘operate with respect to specific
parties,’ ” not “ ‘on legal rules
in the abstract’ ”); see also Mellon
U. S., at 488 (explaining that courts “have no power
to review and annul [statutes] on the ground
that they are unconstitutional,” only “the negative
power to disregard an unconstitutional enactment” when
“declaring the law applicable to [a justiciable]
controversy”). Nor can the majority mean that the District
Court could change the “status” of the CCA’s
judgment. In reality, the only way that the District Court could
possibly help Reed obtain DNA testing is by directly
controlling the district attorney’s actions
again, Reed’s complaint neither requests nor sets forth a
basis for any such relief.[6
In sum, there is no getting around the essential
problem with Reed’s due process claim: To the extent he is
not merely seeking an advisory opinion, he is complaining about a
court-inflicted injury, and redressing that injury would require an
exercise of appellate jurisdiction that the District Court does not
possess. In substance, his complaint in this action is a mere
reprise of his prior certiorari petition, camouflaged as an
original action against the district attorney. Thus, I would vacate
the Fifth Circuit’s judgment and remand this case to the
District Court with instructions to dismiss the complaint for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction.
The majority next holds that Reed’s
§1983 due process claim was timely because it did not accrue
until the CCA denied rehearing. The little reasoning the majority
offers for this conclusion helpfully accentuates its antecedent
First, the majority points out that a procedural
due process claim is not necessarily “ ‘complete
when the deprivation occurs,’ ” but “only
when ‘the State fails to provide due
process.’ ” Ante
, at 5 (quoting
, 494 U.S.
, 126 (1990)). Yet, “the general rule” is that
due process itself
“requir[es] predeprivation notice
and hearing,” so the truism for which the majority quotes
matters only in those “extraordinary
situations” in which “[w]e tolerate”
postdeprivation process as sufficient. United States
James Daniel Good Real Property
, 510 U.S.
, 53 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted); see
, 494 U. S., at 127–130. The majority
proceeds to show, however, that it does not regard this case as a
postdeprivation case at all, for it says that the State
“deprived Reed of his asserted liberty interest in DNA
testing” at the very moment when “the State’s
alleged failure to provide Reed with a fundamentally fair process
was complete.” Ante
, at 5. Given this understanding of
Reed’s claim, the “[i]mportan[t]” proposition
with which the majority begins its analysis is doctrinally
After that red herring, the majority engages in
an obvious equivocation, conflating the Chapter 64
“process” that Reed challenges as “fundamentally
unfair” with the Texas courts’ generally applicable
But of course, those
procedures are not what Reed challenges. Instead (and, again,
exactly like the arguments in his prior certiorari petition), his
due process claim “ ‘targets as
unconstitutional’ ” the substantive
requirements of Chapter 64 as construed
, at 4. His
claim plainly would be no different if the CCA did not entertain
Still, the majority’s confused accrual
reasoning is useful for the added light that it shines on
Reed’s jurisdictional problems. As the majority says, a
procedural due process claim has two elements: (1) a deprivation
and (2) inadequate process. The majority then acknowledges that the
state courts effectuated Reed’s deprivation
, and it
treats the state courts’ ordinary decisional mechanics as the
allegedly inadequate process
. But, after both elements of
Reed’s claim are thus laid at the feet of the state courts,
what role is left for the nominal defendant here, the district
attorney? What part did he play in violating Reed’s
procedural due process rights, and what makes him a proper
defendant to Reed’s §1983 claim?
The majority has no answer. At bottom, its
approval of Reed’s claim is intelligible only upon the
supposition that the district attorney may be sued as a mere
stand-in for the State as a whole, such that Reed can urge
the due process violations that the State
allegedly committed through its courts
. That is a profound
mistake. True, the district attorney and the CCA are both state
actors. But, States act in different ways through their different
entities and officers, and the nature of a challenged state action
determines what federal-court remedy may be available.
As this Court has explained, “[a] State
acts by its legislative, its executive, or its judicial
authorities,” and “in no other way.” Ex parte
, 100 U.S.
, 347 (1880). The Due Process Clause applies to action
through any of these agencies, ibid.
, but not every alleged
due process violation may be asserted in an original §1983
action. By itself, a State’s legislative
an unconstitutional law does not give rise to a justiciable case or
controversy. See California
, 593 U. S., at
___–___ (slip op., at 7–9); Muskrat
U. S., at 361. Next, when a State allegedly violates due
process through executive
action, the aggrieved party may
bring an original action for appropriate relief against the
relevant executive officer. See Mellon
, 262 U. S., at
488; Ex parte Young
, 209 U.S.
] And, when a
State allegedly violates due process through its judicial
actions—be it through the denial of a fundamentally fair
judicial procedure or through the application of a rule of decision
that itself violates due process—the remedy that Congress has
provided is appellate “review of the [challenged] judgmen[t]
in this Court.” Feldman
, 460 U. S., at 482; see,
, 532 U. S., at 453; Bouie
378 U. S., at 349; Brinkerhoff-Faris
, 281 U. S.,
at 678; cf. Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc.
Dept. of Environmental Protection
(2010) (reviewing judicial-taking claim on certiorari
to the challenged state-court judgment). But, if that remedy proves
unsuccessful—as it did for Reed—the aggrieved party
cannot simply substitute an executive officer as a defendant,
charge the state court’s errors to that officer, and seek
redress for a court-inflicted injury in a purported original
Properly understood, therefore, Article III, the
doctrine, and procedural due process
principles work in harmony. The majority’s piecemeal analysis
replaces this natural coherence with chaos. It dilutes Article
III’s traceability and redressability requirements to the
point of irrelevance. It creates a system in which the same
state-court actions simultaneously give rise to identical original
and appellate claims for relief. See this Court’s Rule 13.3
(“[T]he time to file [a] petition for a writ of certiorari
. . . runs from the date of the denial of
rehearing” by the lower court). It allows Reed to convert his
failed certiorari petition into a §1983 complaint. And, in
doing so, it authorizes a proceeding in which the District Court
can do nothing except opine on the constitutional merits of a
* * *
If there is a mitigating factor to
today’s decision, it is that the §1983 action that the
Court misguidedly allows to proceed is no barrier to the prompt
execution of Reed’s lawful sentence. See Hill
, 547 U.S. 573, 583–584 (2006). Indeed, Reed
conceded at oral argument “that you do not get a stay of
execution just because you brought [a Chapter] 64 proceeding or
just because you’re in [§]1983 proceedings
. . . challenging the adequacy of the procedures
available to you from the state.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 68. Texas
is free to take him at his word. But, because the majority
undermines vital principles of federal jurisdiction and
destabilizes the orderly working of our judicial system, I