The Federal Capital Habeas Project (the “§ 2255 Project”) was created in early 2006 by the Office of Defender Services of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. The § 2255 Project was established to assist federal courts with appointment of counsel in federal death penalty habeas proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and to ensure that all individuals sentenced to death in federal court who have completed their direct appeals receive post-conviction representation consistent with the highest standards of the legal profession. The Project offers assistance nationwide in what remains a relatively new area of law and litigation. 

The Project’s five attorneys, paralegal, and project manager work under the auspices of the Federal  Defender Program and focus on the following areas:   

Recruitment of § 2255 Counsel: One of the Project’s principal responsibilities is the recruitment of qualified counsel to represent prisoners in capital § 2255 proceedings. Wherever possible the Project recommends post-conviction teams with the requisite capital and habeas experience to file an exhaustive motion within the one-year statute of limitations and to otherwise adequately represent the prisoner in his or her only collateral challenge.

Monitoring Pending § 2255 Litigation: The Project closely follows the case of every prisoner on the federal death row as the case moves from formal sentencing through the direct appeal process into post-conviction proceedings. We keep all available documents and orders filed in all the cases which helps us inform counsel of developments and trends across the country. The Project also maintains current data on the composition of the federal death row.

Consultation: The core work of the Project is consulting with § 2255 attorneys and other practitioners representing federal death row prisoners in all aspects of post-conviction proceedings. The Project advises post-conviction attorneys on a range of matters, including appointment of counsel, budgeting, investigative strategies, motions practice, mitigation investigation, substantive legal questions and procedural issues unique to the litigation of capital § 2255 cases. The Project has provided consultation on § 2255 cases pending in district and appellate courts throughout the country, as well as on clemency and related matters.

Direct Representation: The Project also provides direct representation to a limited number of federally death-sentenced prisoners.

 Training: The Project organizes training seminars to educate § 2255 counsel about substantive developments in federal habeas corpus law and to provide practical information to aid in effective litigation of the cases. The Project invites nationally recognized death penalty, mental health and other experts to lecture and present on issues; organizes case consultations to address individual needs; and provides counsel with model pleadings and updates on developments nationwide. 

Assistance to Courts and Court Personnel: Project staff are available to assist members of the judiciary and their staffs with budgeting, counsel concerns, or any other issues related to capital § 2255 representation.