Mr. Sheldon has won habeas corpus cases in the state and federal courts. While habeas corpus can be complicated and difficult to understand, at its core it is meant to challenge the fairness of one’s detention. Mr. Sheldon is the author of the only treatise on habeas corpus and post-conviction in Virginia. The following is the introduction to his chapter on habeas corpus:
“From its earliest known appearance to the present, habeas corpus has been a judicial order directing a person to have the body of another before a tribunal at a certain time and place.” “The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to test the validity of detention, and, for this purpose, the law permits a prisoner to mount a collateral attack upon his conviction or sentence.” “There is no higher duty of a court, under our constitutional system, than the careful processing and adjudication of petitions for writs of habeas corpus.” “While the precise origin of the writ of habeas corpus is unknown, it is believed to have been in use before the date of the Magna Carta.” Referred to as the “most celebrated writ in the English law,” it has been preserved in our federal and state constitutions.
Best Habeas corpus “is designed to challenge the civil right of the validity of the petitioner’s detention” and is therefore “a civil and not a criminal proceeding.” “The writ of habeas corpus has always been regarded ‘as a palladium of liberty’ and recognized as one of ‘the greatest and most effective remedies known to the law.’” Habeas “is not now and never has been a static, narrow, formalistic remedy; its scope has grown to achieve its grand purpose—the protection of individuals against erosion of their right to be free from wrongful restraints upon their liberty.” The Habeas Corpus in Virginia statutes are remedial in nature and are to be liberally construed.