Brecht is a paradigm of the Rehnquist Court's result-oriented approach to habeas corpus and harmless error. The decision purports to be a principled application of the policies of finality, federalism, and judicial economy that underlay the Court's new habeas and harmless error jurisprudence. It is, in fact, an unwarranted and unprincipled extension of those policies. Depending on how the lower federal courts interpret and implement the decision, Brecht could have a devastating impact on the way state prosecutors and judges administer criminal justice, as well as the ability of state prisoners to redress constitutional violations.
Bennett L. Gershman, The Gate Is Open but the Door Is Locked--Habeas Corpus and Harmless Error, 51 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 115 (1994), available at http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/135.