438 U.S. 204 (1978), 77-653, Swisher v. Brady

Docket Nº:No. 77-653
Citation:438 U.S. 204, 98 S.Ct. 2699, 57 L.Ed.2d 705
Party Name:Swisher v. Brady
Case Date:June 28, 1978
Court:United States Supreme Court

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438 U.S. 204 (1978)

98 S.Ct. 2699, 57 L.Ed.2d 705




No. 77-653

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 1978

Argued March 29, 1978




Appellee minors brought a class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking, on the basis of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment as applied to the States by the Fourteenth, to prevent the State of Maryland from filing exceptions with the Juvenile Court to proposed nondelinquency findings made by masters of that court pursuant to a rule of procedure (Rule 911) permitting the State to file such exceptions, but further providing that the Juvenile Court judge, who is empowered to accept, modify, or reject, the master's proposals, can act on the exceptions only on the basis of the record made before the master, except that he may receive additional evidence to which the parties do not object. The District Court held that a juvenile subjected [98 S.Ct. 2701] to a hearing before the master is placed in jeopardy, even though the master has no power to enter a final order, and that the Juvenile Court judge's review placed the juvenile in jeopardy a second time, and accordingly enjoined the appellant state officials from taking exceptions to either a master's proposed finding of nondelinquency or his proposed disposition.

Held: The Double Jeopardy Clause does not prohibit Maryland officials, acting in accordance with Rule 911, from taking exceptions to a master's proposed findings. Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519, distinguished. Pp. 214-219.

(a) The State by filing such exceptions does not require an accused to stand trial a second time, but rather the State has created a system with Rule 911 in which an accused juvenile is subjected to a single proceeding which begins with a master's hearing and culminates with an adjudication by a judge. P. 215.

(b) A Rule 911 proceeding does not provide the prosecution the forbidden "second crack" at the accused, since, under the Rule, the State presents its evidence once before the master, and the record is then closed unless the minor consents to the presentation of additional evidence before the judge. Pp. 215-216.

(c) Nor does Rule 911, on the alleged ground that it gives the State a chance to persuade two factfinders -- the master and the judge -- violate the Double Jeopardy Clause's prohibition against the prosecutor's

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enhancing t,he risk that an innocent defendant may be convicted, since the Rule confers the role of factfinder and adjudicator only on the judge, who is empowered to accept, modify, or reject the master's proposals. P. 216.

(d) There is nothing in the record to indicate that the Rule 911 procedure unfairly subjects the defendant to the embarrassment, expense, and ordeal of a second trial proscribed in Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, since, even if the juvenile participates and his attorney appears in the Juvenile Court proceeding (and it does not appear that this is the practice), the burdens are more akin to those resulting from a judge's permissible request for post-trial briefing or argument following a bench trial than to the "expense" of a full-blown second trial. Pp. 216-217.

(e) To the extent the Juvenile Court judge makes supplemental findings in a manner permitted by Rule 911 -- either sua sponte or in response to the State's or juvenile's exceptions, and either on the record before the master or on a record supplemented by evidence to which the parties do not object -- he does so without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause's constraints. United States v. Jenkins, 420 U.S. 358, distinguished; cf. United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82. Pp. 217-219.

436 F.Supp. 1361, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and POWELL, JJ., joined, post, p. 219.

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BURGER, J., lead opinion

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

This is an appeal from a three-judge District Court for the District of Maryland. Nine minors, appellees here, brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to prevent the State from filing exceptions with the Juvenile Court to proposed findings and recommendations made by masters of that court. The minors' claim was based on an alleged violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court's jurisdiction was invoked under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2281, and 2284 (as then written); this Court's jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1253.


In order to understand the present Maryland scheme for the use of masters in juvenile court proceedings, it is necessary to trace briefly the history both of antecedent schemes and of this and related litigation.

Prior to July 1975, the use of masters in Maryland juvenile proceedings was governed by Rule 908(e), Maryland Rules of Procedure. It provided that a master "shall hear such cases as may be assigned to him by the court." The Rule further directed that, at the conclusion of the hearing, the master transmit the case file and his "findings and recommendations" to the Juvenile Court. If no party filed exceptions to these findings and recommendations, they were to be "promptly . . . confirmed, modified or remanded by the judge." If, however, a party filed exceptions -- and in delinquency hearings, only the State had the authority to do so -- then, after notice, the Juvenile Court judge would "hear the entire matter or such specific matters as set forth in the exceptions de novo."1

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In the city of Baltimore, after the State filed a petition alleging that a minor had committed a delinquent act,2 the clerk of the Juvenile Court3 generally would assign the case to one of seven masters.4 In the ensuing unrecorded hearing, the State would call its witnesses and present its evidence in accordance with the rules of evidence applicable in criminal cases. The minor could offer evidence in defense. At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, the master usually would announce his findings and contemplated recommendations. In a minority of those cases where the recommendations favored the minor's position, the State would file exceptions, whereupon the Juvenile Court judge would try the case de novo.5

In 1972, a Baltimore City Master concluded, after a hearing, that the State had failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that a minor, William Anderson, had assaulted and robbed a woman. His recommendation to the Juvenile Court judge reflected that conclusion. The State filed exceptions. Anderson responded with a motion to dismiss the notice of exceptions, contending that Rule 908(e), with its provision for a de novo hearing, violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. The Juvenile Court judge ruled that juvenile proceedings as such were not outside the scope of the Double Jeopardy Clause.

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He then held that the proceeding before him on the State's exceptions would violate Anderson's right not to be twice put in jeopardy, and, on that basis, granted the motion to dismiss. The judge granted the same relief to similarly situated minors, including several who later initiated the present litigation.

The State appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed. In re Anderson, 20 Md.App. 31, 315 A.2d 540 (1974). That court assumed, for purposes of its decision, that jeopardy attached at the commencement of the initial hearing before the master. It held, however:

[T]here is no adjudication by reason of the master's findings and recommendations. The proceedings before the master and his findings and recommendations are simply the first phase of the hearing, which continues with the consideration by the juvenile judge. Whether the juvenile judge, in the absence of exceptions, [98 S.Ct. 2703] accepts the master's findings or recommendations, modifies them, or remands them, or whether, when exceptions are filed, he hears the matter himself de novo, there is merely a continuance of the hearing and the initial jeopardy. In other words, the hearing, and the jeopardy thereto attaching, terminate only upon a valid adjudication by the juvenile judge, not upon the findings and recommendations of the master.

Id. at 47, 315 A.2d at 549 (footnotes omitted; emphasis added). On this basis, the court concluded that the de novo hearing was not a second exposure to jeopardy.

On appeal by the minors, the Court of Appeals affirmed, although on a rationale different from that of the intermediate appellate court. In re Anderson, 272 Md. 85, 321 A.2d 516 (1974). It held that "a hearing before a master is not such a hearing as places a juvenile in jeopardy." Central to this holding was the court's conclusion that masters in Maryland serve only as ministerial assistants to judges; although authorized

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to hear evidence, report findings, and make recommendations to the judge, masters are entrusted with none of the judicial power of the State, including the sine qua non of judicial office -- the power to enter a binding judgment.6

In November, 1974, five months after the Court of Appeals' decision, nine juveniles sought federal habeas corpus relief, contending that, by taking exceptions to masters' recommendations favorable to them, the State was violating their rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause. These same nine minors also initiated a class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which they sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the future operation of Rule 908(e). The sole constitutional basis for...

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