481 U.S. 551 (1987), 85-2099, Pennsylvania v. Finley

Docket Nº:No. 85-2099
Citation:481 U.S. 551, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539, 55 U.S.L.W. 4612
Party Name:Pennsylvania v. Finley
Case Date:May 18, 1987
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 551

481 U.S. 551 (1987)

107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539, 55 U.S.L.W. 4612

Pennsylvania

v.

Finley

No. 85-2099

United States Supreme Court

May 18, 1987

Argued March 2, 1987

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Syllabus

Respondent was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in a Pennsylvania trial court, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal. In respondent's subsequent postconviction proceedings, the trial court, as required by state law, appointed counsel to assist her. Counsel reviewed the trial record; consulted with respondent; concluded that there were no arguable bases for collateral review; advised the trial court in writing of his conclusion; and requested permission to withdraw. After reviewing the record, the court agreed that there were no arguably meritorious issues and dismissed the proceedings. Respondent acquired new appointed counsel and appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which concluded that counsel's conduct in the trial court violated respondent's constitutional rights, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Superior Court relied on Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, which held that (1) when an attorney appointed to represent an indigent defendant on direct appeal finds the case to be wholly frivolous, he must request the court's permission to withdraw and submit a brief referring to anything in the record arguably supporting the appeal, (2) a copy of the brief must be furnished the indigent, and time must be allowed for him to raise any points that he chooses, and (3) the court itself must then decide whether the case is wholly frivolous.

Held: The court below improperly relied on the Federal Constitution to extend the Anders procedures to these collateral postconviction proceedings. Denial of counsel to indigents on first appeal as of right amounts to discrimination against the poor in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Anders established a prophylactic framework that is relevant when, and only when, a litigant has a previously established Constitutional right to counsel. The right to appointed counsel extends to only the first appeal of right, and, since a defendant has no federal constitutional right to counsel when pursuing a discretionary appeal on direct review of his conviction, Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600, a fortiorari, he has no such right when attacking, in postconviction proceedings, a conviction that has become final upon exhaustion of the appellate process. The Anders procedures do not apply to a state-created right to counsel on postconviction review just because they are applied to the right to counsel on first appeal as of right. Respondent's access to a lawyer was the

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result of the State's decision, not the command of the Federal Constitution. The procedures followed by her trial counsel in the postconviction proceedings fully comported with the fundamental fairness mandated by the [107 S.Ct. 1992] Due Process Clause. States have no obligation to provide postconviction relief, and when they do, the fundamental fairness mandated by the Due Process Clause does not require that the State supply a lawyer as well. Nor was the equal protection guarantee of meaningful access violated in this case. Moreover, there is no merit to respondent's contention that, once the State has granted a prisoner access to counsel on postconviction review, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that counsel's actions comport with the Anders procedures. Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, distinguished. Pennsylvania made a valid choice to give prisoners the assistance of counsel in postconviction proceedings without requiring the full panoply of procedural protections that the Constitution requires be given to defendants who are in a fundamentally different position -- at trial and on first appeal as of right. Pp. 554-559.

330 Pa.Super. 313, 479 A.2d 568, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, POWELL, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 559. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 559. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 570.

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REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1975, respondent was convicted of second-degree murder by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. Her appointed trial attorney appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. That court unanimously affirmed the conviction. 477 Pa. 211, 383 A.2d 898 (1978). Having failed on direct appeal, respondent, proceeding pro se, sought relief from the trial court under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Hearing Act. See 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 9541 et seq. (1982). She raised the same issues that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had rejected on the merits. The trial court denied relief, but the State Supreme Court reversed, holding that respondent was entitled, under state law, to appointed counsel in her postconviction proceedings. 497 Pa. 332, 440 A.2d 1183 (1981). On remand, the trial court appointed counsel. Counsel reviewed the trial record and consulted with respondent. He concluded that there were no arguable bases for collateral relief. Accordingly, he advised the trial court in writing of his conclusion, and requested permission to withdraw. The trial court conducted an independent review of the record and agreed that there were no issues even arguably meritorious. The court thus dismissed the petition for postconviction relief.

Respondent acquired new appointed counsel and pursued an appeal to the Superior Court. Over a dissent, that court concluded that the conduct of the counsel in the trial court's postconviction proceedings violated respondent's constitutional

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rights. 330 Pa.Super. 313, 479 A.2d 568 (1984). The court held that

Pennsylvania law concerning procedures to be followed when a court-appointed attorney sees no basis for an appeal is derived from the seminal case of

Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). 330 Pa.Super. at 318, 479 A.2d at 570. In Anders, this Court held that, when an attorney appointed to represent an indigent defendant on direct appeal finds a case wholly frivolous:

[H]e should so advise the court and request permission to withdraw. That request must, however, be accompanied by a brief referring to anything in the record that might arguably support the appeal. A copy of counsel's brief should [107 S.Ct. 1993] be furnished the indigent, and time allowed him to raise any points that he chooses; the court -- not counsel -- then proceeds, after a full examination of all the proceedings, to decide whether the case is wholly frivolous.

386 U.S. at 744. The Superior Court held that respondent's postconviction counsel had failed to follow these procedures, and it therefore remanded the case to the Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings. We granted certiorari, 479 U.S. 812 (1986), and we now reverse.

We think that the court below improperly relied on the United States Constitution to extend the Anders procedures to postconviction proceedings. The holding in Anders was based on the underlying constitutional right to appointed counsel established in Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963). Relying on "that equality demanded by the Fourteenth Amendment," id. at 358, the Douglas Court held that denial of counsel to indigents on first appeal as of right amounted to unconstitutional discrimination against the poor. In Anders, the Court held that, in order to protect the "constitutional requirement of substantial equality and fair process" set out in Douglas, appointed appellate counsel must follow the procedures described above when a case appears to be frivolous. 386 U.S. at 744. Of course, Anders did

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not set down an independent constitutional command that all lawyers, in all proceedings, must follow these particular procedures. Rather, Anders established a prophylactic framework that is relevant when, and only when, a litigant has a previously established constitutional right to counsel.

We have never held that prisoners have a constitutional right to counsel when mounting collateral attacks upon their convictions, see Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 488 (1969), and we decline to so hold today. Our cases establish that the right to appointed counsel extends to the first appeal of right, and no further. Thus, we have rejected suggestions that we establish a right to counsel on discretionary appeals. Wainwright v. Torna, 455 U.S. 586 (1982); Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600 (1974). We think that, since a defendant has no federal constitutional right to counsel when pursuing a discretionary appeal on direct review of his conviction, a fortiori he has no such right when attacking a conviction that has long since become final upon exhaustion of the appellate process. See Boyd v. Dutton, 405 U.S. 1, 7, n. 2 (1972) (POWELL, J., dissenting).

In Ross v. Moffitt, supra, we analyzed the defendant's claim to appointed counsel on discretionary review under two theories. We concluded that the fundamental fairness exacted by the Due Process Clause did not require appointment of counsel:

[I]t is ordinarily the defendant, rather than the State, who initiates the appellate process, seeking not to fend off the efforts of the State's prosecutor, but rather to overturn a finding of guilt made by a judge or jury below. The defendant needs an attorney on appeal not as a shield to protect him against being "haled into court" by the State and stripped of his presumption of innocence, but rather as a sword to upset the prior...

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