These Editor's Observations introduce an issue of FSR that is devoted to assessing the legacy of two statutes that were adopted in 1996 in order to stem a rising tide of habeas corpus and prisoner rights lawsuits. These statutes, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, have provoked much critical commentary, both in this issue of FSR and elsewhere. The present essay focuses in particular on four major themes that run through many of the articles in this issue. Framed as questions, they are: (1) whether the PLRA and AEDPA reflect systemic failures of the democratic process as it relates to prisoner-litigation law; (2) whether the courts have mitigated the inherent problems of the statutes; (3) whether it is time to look beyond the federal courts as the primary safeguard against violations of defendants' and prisoners' rights; and (4) whether the arcane and arbitrary litigation processes engendered by the PLRA and AEDPA should be thought of as punishment in their own right.

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