Habeas Corpus Petitions in the Virgin Islands

In the Virgin Islands, a criminal defendant may appeal a conviction as of right, and if that appeal is unsuccessful, file an unlimited number of successive habeas corpus petitions under local law, Bryan v. Gov't of the V.I., 56 V.I. 451, 457 (V.I. 2012), constrained only by abuse of the writ and similar common law doctrines.See, e.g., Price v. Johnson, 334 U.S. 266, 287-93, 68 S. Ct. 1049, 92 L. Ed. 1356 (1948).

If those attempts at post-conviction relief are fully exhausted and unsuccessful, the convicted defendant may file a federal habeas corpus petition, albeit under a more constrained standard of review. See Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996).

And while federal law generally prohibits multiple habeas corpus petitions, occasionally, the prisoner may have an opportunity to file a successive petition in federal court as well. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(2)(A)-(B).

But that is not the case with civil litigation. For example, if an attorney overlooks the statute of limitations in a civil case, it will typically be the end of the matter; the affected client will not be able to file a petition, years later, seeking to reopen the case. See, e.g., Santiago v. V.I. Housing Auth., 57 V.I. 256, 273 (V.I. 2012) (observing that "once a cause of action has accrued and the statutory period for bringing the action has expired, an injured party is barred from bringing suit" on it, and holding that an amended complaint, served more than two years after the plaintiff's personal injury claims accrued and the limitation period had started to run, was time barred). "In contrast to the postconviction relief available to a criminal defendant, a civil matter lost through an attorney's negligence is lost forever," with "no recourse other than a malpractice claim." Wiley v. County of San Diego, 19 Cal. 4th 532, 79 Cal. Rptr. 2d 672, 966 P.2d 983, 989-90 (1998).