410 U.S. 484 (1973), 71-6516, Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky

Docket Nº:No. 71-6516
Citation:410 U.S. 484, 93 S.Ct. 1123, 35 L.Ed.2d 443
Party Name:Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky
Case Date:February 28, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 484

410 U.S. 484 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 1123, 35 L.Ed.2d 443

Braden

v.

30th Judicial Circuit Court of Kentucky

No. 71-6516

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 28, 1973

Argued December 5, 1972

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner, imprisoned in Alabama, applied to the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky for a writ of federal habeas corpus to compel the Commonwealth of Kentucky to grant him a speedy trial on an indictment returned by the grand jury of respondent court regarding which Kentucky had lodged a detainer with Alabama. The District Court granted the writ, but the Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a), which provides that "[w]rits of habeas corpus may be granted by the . . . district courts . . . within their respective jurisdictions" precluded granting the writ to a prisoner who was not physically present within the territorial limits of the district court.

Held:

1. Under Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54, which discarded the "prematurity doctrine" of McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, the petitioner was "in custody" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) for purposes of a habeas corpus attack on the Kentucky indictment underlying the detainer, even though he was confined in an Alabama prison. Pp. 488-489.

2. The exhaustion doctrine of Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, does not bar a petition for federal habeas corpus alleging, under Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374, a constitutional claim of present denial of a speedy trial, even though the petitioner has not yet been brought to trial on the state charge. The petitioner must, however, have exhausted available state court remedies for consideration of that constitutional claim. Pp. 489-493.

3. The jurisdiction of a district court considering a habeas corpus petition requires only that the court issuing the writ have jurisdiction over the custodian of the prisoner. Pp. 494-495.

4. Ahrens v. Clark, 335 U.S. 188, on which respondent relies, can no longer be viewed as requiring that habeas corpus petitions be brought only in the district of the petitioner's confinement. Here, since respondent was properly served with process in the Western District of Kentucky, the Court of Appeals erred in concluding

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that the District Court should have dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. Pp. 495-501.

454 F.2d 145, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 501. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 502.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner is presently serving a sentence in an Alabama prison. He applied to the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky for a writ of federal habeas corpus, alleging denial of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374 (1969), and praying that an order issue directing respondent to afford him an immediate trial on a then three-year-old Kentucky indictment. We are to consider whether, as petitioner was not physically present within the territorial limits of the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, the provision of 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a) that "[w]rits of habeas corpus may be granted by the . . . district courts . . . within their respective jurisdictions" (emphasis supplied), precluded the District Court from

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entertaining petitioner's application. The District Court held that the section did not bar its determination of the application. The court held further that petitioner had been denied a speedy trial, and ordered respondent either to secure his presence in Kentucky for trial within 60 days or to dismiss the indictment. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed on the ground that

the habeas corpus jurisdiction conferred on the federal courts by 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a) is "limited to petitions filed by persons physically present within the territorial limits of the District Court."

454 F.2d 145, 146 (1972). We granted certiorari. 407 U.S. 909 (1972). We reverse.

I

On July 31, 1967, the grand jury of the Jefferson County Circuit Court (30th Judicial Circuit of Kentucky) indicted petitioner on one count of storehouse breaking and one count of safe-breaking. At the time of the indictment, petitioner was in custody in California, and he was returned to Kentucky to stand trial on the indictment. But on November 13, 1967, he escaped from the custody of Kentucky officials and remained at large until his arrest in Alabama on February 24, 1968. Petitioner was convicted of certain unspecified felonies in the Alabama state courts, and was sentenced to the Alabama state prison, where he was confined when he filed this action.

The validity of petitioner's conviction on the Alabama felonies is not at issue here, just as it was not at issue before the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Nor does petitioner challenge the "present effect being given the [Kentucky] detainer by the [Alabama] authorities. . . ." Nelson v. George, 399 U.S. 224, 225 (1970). He attacks, rather, the validity of the

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Kentucky indictment which underlies the detainer lodged against him by officials of that State.

In a pro se application for habeas corpus relief to the Federal District Court in the Western District of Kentucky, petitioner alleged that he had made repeated demands for a speedy trial on the Kentucky indictment, that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial, that further delay in trial would impair his ability to defend himself, and that the existence of the Kentucky indictment adversely affected his condition of confinement in Alabama by prejudicing his opportunity for parole. In response to an order to show cause, respondent argued that the District Court lacked jurisdiction because the petitioner was not confined within the district. Respondent added that

petitioner in the case at bar may challenge the legality of any of the adverse effects of any Kentucky detainer against him in Alabama by habeas corpus in the Alabama Federal District Court.

App. 6-7. The District Court [93 S.Ct. 1126] held, citing Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374 (1969), that Kentucky must

attempt to effect the return of a prisoner from a foreign jurisdiction for trial on pending state charges when such prisoner so demands. . . . Since it is the State of Kentucky which must take action, it follows that jurisdiction rests in this district which has jurisdiction over the necessary state officials.

App. 9.

Under the constraint of its earlier decision,1 the Court of Appeals reversed, but stated that it "reach[ed] this conclusion reluctantly" because of the possibility that the decision would

result in Braden's inability to find a forum in which to assert his constitutional right to a speedy trial -- a right which he is legally entitled to assert at this time under Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54

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(1968). This is a possibility because the rule in the Fifth Circuit, where [Braden] is incarcerated, appears to be that a district court in the state that has filed the detainer is the proper forum in which to file the petition. See May v. Georgia, 409 F.2d 203 (5th Cir.1969). See also Rodgers v. Louisiana, 418 F.2d 237 (5th Cir.1969). Braden thus may find himself ensnared in what has aptly been termed "Catch 2254" -- unable to vindicate his constitutional rights in either of the only two states that could possibly afford a remedy. See Tuttle, Catch 2254: Federal Jurisdiction and Interstate Detainers, 32 U.Pitt.L.Rev. 489, 5003 (1971).

454 F.2d at 146-147.

II

We granted certiorari to resolve a sharp conflict among the federal courts2 on the choice of forum where a prisoner attacks an interstate detainer on federal habeas corpus. Before turning to that question, we must make clear that petitioner is entitled to raise his speedy trial claim on federal habeas corpus at this time. First, he is currently "in custody" within the meaning of the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Prior to our decision in Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54 (1968), the "prematurity doctrine" of McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131 (1934), would, of course, have barred his petition for relief.3 But our decision in Peyton v. Rowe discarded the prematurity doctrine, which had permitted

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a prisoner to attack on habeas corpus only his current confinement, and not confinement that would be imposed in the future, and opened the door to this action.4

[93 S.Ct. 1127] Second, petitioner has exhausted all available state remedies as a prelude to this action. It is true, of course, that he has not yet been tried on the Kentucky indictment, and he can assert a speedy trial defense when, and if, he is finally brought to trial. It is also true, as our Brother REHNQUIST points out in dissent, that federal habeas corpus does not lie, absent "special circumstances," to adjudicate the merits of an affirmative defense to a state criminal charge prior to a judgment of conviction by a state court. Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 253 (1886). Petitioner does not, however, seek at this time to litigate a federal defense to a criminal charge, but only

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to demand enforcement of the Commonwealth's affirmative constitutional obligation to bring him promptly to trial. Smith v. Hooey, 393 U.S. 374 (1969). He has made repeated demands for trial to the courts of Kentucky, offering those courts an opportunity to consider on the merits his constitutional claim of the present denial of a speedy trial...

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