342 U.S. 205 (1952), 23, United States v. Hayman

Docket Nº:No. 23
Citation:342 U.S. 205, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232
Party Name:United States v. Hayman
Case Date:January 07, 1952
Court:United States Supreme Court

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342 U.S. 205 (1952)

72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232

United States



No. 23

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 7, 1952

Argued October 15, 1951




Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides that a federal prisoner may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct any sentence subject to collateral attack, respondent, confined in a federal penitentiary in the Washington, filed in the Federal District Court in California a motion to vacate his sentence and grant a new trial. He alleged that at his trial he did not have the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, because his counsel was also counsel for another person, who was the principal witness against respondent and was defendant in a related case. The District Court, without notice to respondent and without ordering the presence of respondent, found that the counsel's dual representation was with respondent's knowledge and consent, and denied respondent's motion.

Held: the District Court erred in determining the factual issues raised by respondent's motion under § 2255 without notice to respondent and without his presence. Pp. 206-224.

1. A review of the history of § 2255 shows that it was passed at the instance of the Judicial Conference to meet practical problems that had arisen in administering the habeas corpus jurisdiction of the federal courts. Pp. 210-219.

2. Section 2255 was not intended to impinge upon prisoners' rights of collateral attack upon their convictions; its sole purpose was to minimize the difficulties encountered in habeas corpus hearings by affording the same rights in another and more convenient forum. Pp. 214-219.

3. In making findings on controverted issues of fact relating to respondent's own knowledge without notice to respondent and without his being present, the District Court did not proceed in conformity with § 2255. Pp. 219-223.

(a) The crucial issue of fact presented by respondent's motion under § 2255 was whether his counsel represented the other person with respondent's knowledge and consent, and respondent's presence at a hearing on this issue is necessary if the procedure

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under § 2255 is to be adequate and effective in this case. Pp. 219-220.

(b) Issuance of an order to produce the prisoner is auxiliary to the jurisdiction of the trial court over respondent granted in § 2255 itself and invoked by respondent's filing of a motion under that section. Ahrens v. Clark, 335 U.S. 188, distinguished. Pp. 220-222.

(c) Where, as here, there are substantial issues of fact as to events in which the prisoner participated, the trial court should require his production for a hearing. Pp. 222-223.

4. The procedure prescribed by § 2255 will be adequate and effective if respondent is present for a hearing in the District Court on remand of this case, and, in the circumstances, this Court does not reach the constitutional questions presented. P. 223.

5. The Court of Appeals correctly reversed the order of the District Court, but should have remanded the case for a hearing under § 2255 instead of ordering that respondent's motion be dismissed. Pp. 223-224.

187 F.2d 456, judgment vacated.

Respondent's motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his sentence and grant a new trial was denied by the District Court. The Court of Appeals reversed, and ordered the motion dismissed. 187 F.2d 456. This Court granted certiorari. 341 U.S. 930. Vacated and remanded, p. 224.

VINSON, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In its 1948 revision of the Judicial Code, Congress provided that prisoners in custody under sentence of a federal

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court may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct any sentence subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. (Supp. IV) § 2255.1

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Respondent, confined at the McNeil Island penitentiary in the Western District of Washington,2 invoked this new procedure by filing a motion to vacate his sentence and grant a new trial in the District Court for the Southern District of California. That court had imposed a sentence of twenty years' imprisonment in 1947 for forging Government checks and related violations of federal law.3

In his motion, respondent alleged that he did not enjoy the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed defendants in federal courts by the Sixth Amendment. Specifically, he alleged that one Juanita Jackson, a principal witness against respondent as his trial and a defendant in a related case, was represented by the same lawyer as respondent. Respondent claims that he was not told [72 S.Ct. 267] of the dual representation, and that he had no way of discovering the conflict until after the trial was over. It appeared from court records that Juanita Jackson testified against respondent after entering a plea of guilty, but before sentence. Since a conflict in the interests of his attorney might have prejudiced respondent under these circumstances, the sentencing court and the court below, one judge dissenting, found that the allegations of respondent's motion warranted a hearing. Respondent's motion requested the issuance of an order to secure his presence at such a hearing.

For three days, the District Court received testimony in connection with the issues of fact raised by the motion. This proceeding was conducted without notice to respondent and without ordering the presence of respondent. On the basis of this ex parte investigation, the District Court found as a fact that respondent's counsel had also

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represented Juanita Jackson, but that he "did so only with the knowledge and consent, and at the instance and request of [respondent]." Pursuant to this finding, the District Court entered an order denying respondent's motion to vacate his sentence and to grant a new trial.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,4 the majority, acting sua sponte, raised questions as to the adequacy and constitutionality of Section 2255. The court addressed itself to the provision that an application for a writ of habeas corpus "shall not be entertained" where the sentencing court has denied relief "unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." Considering that the proceedings in the District Court were proper under the terms of Section 2255, the court below held, one judge dissenting, that the Section 2255 procedure could not be adequate or effective in this case and, in the alternative, that the Section, in precluding resort to habeas corpus, amounted to an unconstitutional "suspension" of the writ of habeas corpus as to respondent.5

On rehearing below, and again in this Court, the Government conceded that respondent's motion raised factual issues which required respondent's presence at a hearing. The Court of Appeals, however, refused either to affirm the denial or respondent's motion or to accept the Government's concession and remand the case for a hearing with respondent present. Instead, it treated Section 2255 as a nullity and ordered respondent's motion dismissed

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so that respondent might proceed by habeas corpus in the district of his confinement. 187 F.2d 456.

We granted certiorari in this case, 341 U.S. 930 (1951), to review the decision that Section 2255 must be considered a nullity, a holding that stands in conflict with cases decided in other circuits.6 We do not reconsider the concurrent findings of both courts below that respondent's motion states grounds to support a collateral attack on his sentence and [72 S.Ct. 268] raises substantial issues of fact calling for an inquiry into their verity.

First. The need for Section 2255 is best revealed by a review of the practical problems that had arisen in the administration of the federal courts' habeas corpus jurisdiction.

Power to issue the writ of habeas corpus, "the most celebrated writ in the English law,"7 was granted to the federal courts in the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 81-82. Since Congress had not defined the term "habeas corpus," resort to the common law was necessary.8 Although

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the objective of the Great Writ long has been the liberation of those unlawfully imprisoned at common law a judgment of conviction rendered by a court of general criminal jurisdiction was conclusive proof that confinement was legal. Such a judgment prevented issuance of the writ without more.9

In 1867, Congress changed the common law rule by extending the writ of habeas corpus to

all cases where any person may be restrained of his or her liberty in violation of the constitution, or of any treaty or law of the United States,

and providing for inquiry into the facts of detention. 14 Stat. 385. In commenting on the 1867 Act, this Court has said:

The effect is to substitute for the bare legal review that seems to have been the limit of judicial authority under the common law practice, and under the act of 31 Car. II, chap. 2, a more searching investigation, in which the applicant is put upon his oath to set forth the truth of the matter respecting the causes of his detention, and the court, upon determining the actual facts, is to "dispose of the party as law and justice require."

* * * *

. . . a prisoner in custody pursuant to the final judgment of a . . . court of criminal jurisdiction may have a judicial inquiry in a court of the United States into the very truth and substance of the causes of his detention, although it may become necessary to look behind and beyond the record of his conviction to a sufficient extent to test the jurisdiction of the . . . court to proceed to judgment against him. . . .10

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Under the 1867 Act,11 United States District Court have jurisdiction to determine whether a prisoner has been deprived of liberty in violation of constitutional...

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