Procedural Default Rule Law and Legal Definition

Procedural default rule is a procedural concept followed by the U.S. Federal Courts. The procedural default applies in two contexts. Firstly, when a petitioner does not exhaust his/her state remedies because the petitioner fails to fairly present an issue to the state courts, the federal district court must treat the issue as procedurally defaulted. Secondly, the rule provides that federal courts will not review a claim procedurally defaulted under state law when the last state court to review the claim clearly and expressly states that its judgment rests on a procedural bar, and the bar presents an independent and adequate state ground for denying relief. [Mize v. Terry, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13297, 2-3 (D. Ga. 2006)]

A federal court will not grant habeas corpus relief to a state prisoner who has not exhausted his/her available state court remedies. Procedural default rules are designed to encourage parties to raise their claims promptly and to vindicate the law's important interest in the finality of judgments. [Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. 331, 356 (U.S. 2006)]

However, there are two exceptions to the procedural default rule: (1) Cause and prejudice; and (2) Fundamental miscarriage of justice.

Under cause and prejudice exception, the petitioner must show that there was some external impediment preventing counsel from constructing or raising the claim. To excuse a default of a guilt-phase claim under the fundamental miscarriage of justice standard exception, a petitioner must prove a constitutional violation that has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent. [Putman v. Turpin, 53 F. Supp. 2d 1285, 1292 (M.D. Ga. 1999)]