In a lively hour of argument Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices debated the distinction between rights and remedies, the Court’s authority to promulgate new constitutional rules through its decisions, and an issue that Justice Stephen Breyer termed “metaphysical.”

Throughout the argument in the case, which involves states’ power to apply U.S. Supreme Court decisions to state criminal procedures using a retroactivity standard broader than the federal one, the justices frequently jumped in to respond to their colleagues’ questions and comments themselves — at one point leaving one of the arguing attorneys completely out of the mix for some time.

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