454 U.S. 911 (1981), 80-2169, Davis v. Jacobs

Docket Nº:No. 80-2169
Citation:454 U.S. 911, 102 S.Ct. 417, 70 L.Ed.2d 226
Party Name:William DAVIS v. Thomas L. JACOBS, Commissioner of Probation; and John T. REED v. Carl AJELLO, Attorney General of Connecticut, et al No.80-6504
Case Date:October 13, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 911

454 U.S. 911 (1981)

102 S.Ct. 417, 70 L.Ed.2d 226

William DAVIS

v.

Thomas L. JACOBS, Commissioner of Probation; and John T. REED

v.

Carl AJELLO, Attorney General of Connecticut, et al

No.80-6504

No. 80-2169

United States Supreme Court.

October 13, 1981

Rehearing Denied Nov. 9, 1981.

OPINION

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Willie L. DILLARD v. R. J. MARKS, Superintendent, Pennsylvania State Penitentiary, et al.; Allen RODZIEWICZ v. Gary J. HILTON, Superintendent, New Jersey State Prison, et al.; and James Hugh HENSON, Jr. v. Walter W. REDMAN, Warden. Nos. 80-6586, 80-6818, 81-5071.

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Durkin WOODRUFF v. Harry L. ALLSBROOK et al.; and Robert Lee SMITH v. James P. MITCHELL, Warden. Nos. 80-6508, 81-5138.

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

William James GIBSON v. Frank C. BLACKBURN, Warden; James FREEMAN v. Joe OLIVER et al.; James Edward CLAYTON v. W. J. ESTELLE, Director, Texas Department of Corrections; and Burrell JOHNSON, Jr. v. W. J. ESTELLE, Jr., Director, Texas Department of Corrections. Nos. 80-6451, 80-6714, 80-6932, 81-5021.

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Clarence WILLIAMS v. ILLINOIS. No. 81-358.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Orville Gene VINSON v. Robert R. RAINES, Warden; Frank L. PERKINS v. Robert R. RAINES, Superintendent, Arizona State Prison; and Benny DIXON v. Robert RAINES. Nos. 80-6732, 81-5082, 81-5118.

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Gary Lee McCOLPIN v. Robert A. ATKINS; and William Thomas HUMPHREY v. OKLAHOMA et al. Nos. 80-6757, 80-6780.

On petitions for writs of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The petitions for writs of certiorari are denied.

Page 912

Opinion of Justice STEVENS respecting the denial of the petitions for writs of certiorari.

The question raised by the dissenting opinion is whether the order to be entered in these 17 cases should be a dismissal or a denial. Although this question might be characterized as a procedural technicality--because its resolution is a matter of complete indifference to the litigants--the argument made in the dissent merits a response because it creates the impression that the Court's answer to this arcane inquiry demonstrates that the Court is discharging its responsibilities in a lawless manner. The impression is quite incorrect.

The petitioners in these cases are state prisoners. None of them has a meritorious claim. Their habeas corpus petitions were all dismissed by Federal District Judges, [102 S.Ct. 418] and they all unsuccessfully sought review in the United States Court of Appeals. Because none of the petitioners obtained a certificate of probable cause, none of these cases was properly "in" the Court of Appeals and therefore 28 U.S.C. § 1254 does not give this Court jurisdiction over the petitions for certiorari. It is perfectly clear, however, that if there were merit to the petitions, the Court would have ample authority to review them in either of two ways.

First, as the Court expressly decided in 1945 in a case that is procedurally identical to these, this Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1651. In House v. Mayo, 324 U.S. 42, 65 S.Ct. 517, 89 L.Ed. 739, the Court conceded that it lacked certiorari jurisdiction under the predecessor to § 1254, but squarely held that the All Writs Act, now 28 U.S.C. § 1651, authorized the Court to "grant a writ of certiorari to review the action of the court of appeals in declining to allow an appeal to it" and to review the "questions on the merits sought to be raised by the appeal."

Page 913

324 U.S., at 44-45, 65 S.Ct., at 519. 1 The Court has consistently followed House v. Mayo for over 35 years. 2

Second, as the dissent notes: "[A] Circuit Justice, or this Court itself, may issue a certificate of probable cause. See Rosoto v. Warden, 83 S.Ct. 1788, 11 L.Ed.2d 15 (1963) (Harlan, J., in chambers); In re Hunt, 348 U.S. 968, 75 S.Ct. 536, 99 L.Ed. 754 (1955) (Court denying certificate)." Post, at 421. Because we have that authority, it is part of our responsibility in processing these petitions to determine whether they have arguable

Page 914

merit notwithstanding the failure of a district or circuit judge to authorize an appeal to the Court of Appeals.

A complete explanation of the Court's conclusion that these cases have insufficient merit to warrant the exercise of its jurisdiction should therefore include three elements: (1) the petitioner has incorrectly invoked our jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1254 because no certificate of probable [102 S.Ct. 419] cause was issued; (2) the Court has decided not to exercise its jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1651; and (3) neither the Circuit Justice nor the Court has decided to issue a certificate of probable cause. Instead of entering detailed orders of this kind in all of these cases,

[3] the Court wisely has adopted the practice of entering simple denials.

[4] Ironically, the dissenters argue that this settled practice creates "more paperwork." Post, at 421.

As a practical matter, given the volume of frivolous, illegible, and sometimes...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP