Kent Russell, Attorney at Law  
California's premier habeas corpus attorney Specializing in representing prisoners on habeas corpus
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California Habeas Handbook

The California Habeas Handbook explains to prisoners and their families, in plain English, exactly how habeas corpus works in theory and in practice. The Handbook covers both state and federal habeas corpus from beginning to end. The book is primarily designed to teach prisoners who cannot afford lawyers the basics necessary to investigate, prepare, file, and defend habeas corpus petitions in compliance with the statute of limitations and the other procedural requirements of  AEDPA – the 1996 law which now controls habeas corpus practice throughout the United States. Additionally, because the California Habeas Handbook is loaded with citations to the latest California Rules of Court and the most current habeas corpus cases, the book will be useful to lawyers who are experienced in other areas of the law but who are new to habeas corpus.

The California Habeas Handbook has been described by reviewers as “the best book of its kind”. The Handbook features a legal gem that is contained in no other habeas corpus book: A “Habeas Grounds Table”, with over 150 winning habeas corpus claims, each supported by a controlling U.S. Supreme Court case – the required currency for complying with AEDPA, which requires that all habeas corpus claims be supported by U.S. Supreme Court authority. The Table also includes a column giving the writ writer a plain statement of the constitutional right on which each decision is based. Thus, by using the Habeas Grounds Table as instructed in the book, a prisoner can state a legitimate habeas corpus “Ground”, specify the constitutional right which was infringed in the prisoner’s case, back up the Ground with the required U.S. Supreme Court authority, and then add in the supporting facts which are specific to each claim. In this way, the Handbook teaches a habeas corpus petitioner to construct a genetically sound but thoroughly individualized habeas corpus petition from the ground up, much the way a contractor would design and build a house to the owner’s specifications.

 Additionally, California Habeas Handbook 2.0 contains new innovations that were not available in previous editions of the Handbook. First, because we are now moving into an era in which habeas corpus is only one of a number of viable approaches to sentence reduction and release from prison, the California Habeas Handbook now contains two brand new chapters: One which covers recent California measures offering alternatives to traditional habeas corpus as a means of gaining early release from prison; and a concise but comprehensive chapter on Parole. Moreover, because the increasing availability of technology in the prisons has made it possible for prisoners to have access to computer disks which can hold infinitely more data than could possibly be provided in hard copy, California Habeas Handbook 2.0 now offers, in addition to the standard Appendix, an optional CD-rom entitled “Best of Russell” – which contains complete copies of more than 75 documents filed by The Law Offices of Russell and Russell in all phases of state and federal habeas corpus litigation.

California Habeas Handbook 2.0 is divided into the following chapters:

Chapter 1, “Introducing CHH”, sets out what the California Habeas Handbook is designed to do and lists some of the inherent limitations in a book of this kind. This chapter also contains an Abbreviations Table and an illustration of the citation format used in published cases and in this book.

Chapter 2, “Gut Check”, explains why habeas corpus is not for the faint-hearted or those who only go to battle when the odds are on their side.

Chapter 3, “Habeas History”, presents a concise history of habeas corpus, beginning with its origins in England and working our way through habeas corpus in America from the days of the founding fathers to the present day, when habeas corpus has been under serious attack, but has managed to survive. 

Chapter 4, “State Habeas”, starts with the all-important concept of “exhaustion”, which must be properly completed in the state’s highest court before any federal habeas corpus petition can be heard; and then shows how to satisfy the requirement that all exhausted claims be “federalized”. The chapter then takes you through all the stages of a typical state criminal case – trial, direct appeal, and state habeas corpus –  and explains what state procedural defaults are and how to avoid them.

Chapter 5, “Federal Habeas”, covers in depth the fundamental requirements for a successful habeas federal corpus claim:  a violation of federal constitutional law as articulated in a holding by the U.S. Supreme Court, and resulting prejudice. Then this chapter provides a tutorial on federal habeas procedure “from cradle to grave”, starting with the filing of the petition in the District Court and moving on through all the stages that follow in the Circuit Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chapter 6, “AEDPA Agenda”, explains the key provisions of AEDPA: the AEDPA one-year statute of limitations, the much tougher standards of review which now apply on federal habeas corpus, the more restrictive rules for getting an evidentiary hearing, the COA requirement before an appeal can be heard, and the back-breaking new limits on successive petitions.

Chapter 7, “Form Filling”, will put you at ground zero of the habeas corpus war zone – the habeas corpus petition – and show you how to successfully draft a habeas corpus petition from top to bottom, using the required printed forms for state and federal habeas corpus.

Chapter 8, “Ground Control”, shows you how to draw up the grounds for the petition, using my specially designed “Habeas Claims Table”, which lists over 150 winning habeas corpus claims side by side with the U.S. Supreme Court cases on which they are based.

Chapter 9, “California Time”, which was co-written with my talented colleague Susan Jordan, a highly experienced attorney specializing in parole release for prisoners serving life sentences, presents and analyzes post-conviction remedies other than traditional state and federal habeas corpus, which have recently come into play in California. Specifically, we focus on Proposition 36 (“Three Strikes Reform Initiative”); Proposition 47 (“Sentence Reduction of Felonies to Misdemeanors”); Senate Bills 260 and 261 (“Youth Offender Parole Law”); and Senate Bill 9 (“Petitioning the Court to Recall and LWOP Sentence Imposed on a Juvenile”.)

Chapter 10, Parole for California Prisoners Serving Live Sentences”, written by parole specialist Susan L. Jordan, Esq, takes prisoners through the entire parole process, starting with the steps that one needs to consider at the beginning of one’s incarceration and continuing through the all-important parole hearing, which in recent years has become the most promising path to ultimate release from prison. Using plain, everyday language, Susan provides an invaluable time line which lays out the parole process for you in bite-size pieces which you can gobble up as you embark on the journey that hopefully will lead you to freedom.

Chapter 11, “Hiring Me”, is designed for those of you fortunate enough to have families who are able and willing to pay for an experienced lawyer to handle your case. It covers the steps necessary to hire my firm, Russell and Russell, to evaluate your case and, if it has merit, to represent you in court.

The “Appendix” contains two sets of forms that you can use in your own cases: (1) copies of the most important court forms that are approved for mandatory or optional use in the courts; and (2) excerpts from actual documents filed by my law offices, which you can use as templates or guides for the forms you’ll be drafting in your own cases.

Optional CD: “Best of Russell”: The optional CD-Rom contains more than 75 complete, unedited copies of some of the finest documents filed by the Law Offices of Russell and Russell, embracing all phases of state and federal habeas corpus practice.

Links to Sample Chapters and Tables: For those of you seeking more information on the contents of California Habeas Handbook 2.0, please see the links below:

Cost and Availability: The brand new California Habeas Handbook 2.0 is now available for purchase. Edition 2.0 takes the place of the former 6th Edition, which is no longer being printed. The cost options for Edition 2.0 are as follows:

DELUXE CHH 2.0 PACKAGE (Book + CD-Rom) $ 95
BOOK ONLY – Prisoner Discount Price: $ 55*
(* Prisoner Discount Price only available if personally paid for by a prisoner using a state-issued check, and must be claimed at time of purchase.)


Important Note: How to Purchase the California Habeas Handbook

The California Habeas Handbook 2.0 will soon be published, printed, and distributed solely by Prison Legal News (PLN), and credit cards will be accepted as well as checks, cash, etc. When the PLN purchasing setup is completed, we will post a notice to that effect on this site, and we will provide the contact information for purchases through PLN.

            Meanwhile, until further notice on this site, the book can be purchased directly from author Kent A. Russell at the mailing address below, using a check or money order only. Complete the ORDER FORM (the printable one per the above link), and send it along with your payment via check or money order to:


Kent A. Russell
“CHH 2.0"
3169 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

Note: The order form and other documents on this site are in Adobe PDF format. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download it for free from the Adobe web site by clicking the button below:

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If you have questions, click on “Contact Kent Russell” or call our office today!

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