It took longer than expected, but the Supreme Court today unanimously agreed to answer a Ninth Circuit question about habeas corpus practice.  In Robinson v. Lewis, the court will decide an issue that the Ninth Circuit said is “of exceptional importance to both federal and California courts.”

The question is:  “When a state habeas petitioner has no good cause for delay, at what point in time is that state prisoner’s petition, filed in a California court of review to challenge a lower state court’s disposition of the prisoner’s claims, untimely under California law; specifically, is a habeas petition untimely filed after an unexplained 66-day delay between the time a California trial court denies the petition and the time the petition is filed in the California Court of Appeal?”

The Ninth Circuit’s request was essentially a petition for rehearing, coming as it did more than six years after the Supreme Court declined the Ninth Circuit’s request to answer a similar question.

The Supreme Court waited 140 days before agreeing to decide Robinson.  That’s quicker than the 189 days the court took before turning down the Ninth Circuit’s similar request six years ago.  But it’s considerably longer than the court has taken to rule on a Ninth Circuit request in the last five years.  The next longest wait in the last five years was 112 days (the median time during that period was 63 days before today), but the reason for the delay in that case was readily apparent from the court’s order.  We don’t know why the Robinson request took so long.