512 U.S. 849 (1994), 93-6497, McFarland v. Scott

Docket Nº:No. 93-6497
Citation:512 U.S. 849, 114 S.Ct. 2568, 129 L.Ed.2d 666, 62 U.S.L.W. 4713
Party Name:McFARLAND v. SCOTT, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, INSTITUTIONAL DIVISION
Case Date:June 30, 1994
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 849

512 U.S. 849 (1994)

114 S.Ct. 2568, 129 L.Ed.2d 666, 62 U.S.L.W. 4713

McFARLAND

v.

SCOTT, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, INSTITUTIONAL DIVISION

No. 93-6497

United States Supreme Court

June 30, 1994

Argued March 29, 1994

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title 21 U.S.C. § 848(q)(4)(B) entitles capital defendants to qualified legal representation in any "post conviction proceeding" under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or § 2255, sections of the federal habeas corpus statute. Having failed to obtain a modification of his impending execution date in Texas state court, petitioner McFarland commenced this action in the Federal District Court by filing a pro se motion stating that he wished to challenge his conviction and death sentence under § 2254, requesting the appointment of counsel under § 848(q)(4)(B), and seeking a stay of execution to give that counsel time to prepare and file a habeas petition. The court denied the motion, concluding that because no "post conviction proceeding" had been initiated, McFarland was not entitled to counsel and the court lacked jurisdiction to issue a stay. In denying his subsequent stay application, the Court of Appeals noted that § 2251 authorizes a federal judge, before whom a "habeas corpus proceeding is pending," to stay a state action, but held that no federal proceeding was pending because a motion for stay and for appointed counsel was not the equivalent of a habeas petition.

Held:

A capital defendant need not file a formal habeas corpus petition in order to invoke his right to counsel under § 848(q)(4)(B) and to establish a federal court's jurisdiction to enter a stay of execution. Pp. 854-859.

(a) The language and purposes of § 848(q)(4)(B) and its related provisions establish that the right to qualified appointed counsel adheres before the filing of a formal, legally sufficient habeas petition and includes a right to legal assistance in the preparation of such a petition. Thus, a "post conviction proceeding" within § 848(q)(4)(B)'s meaning is commenced by the filing of a death row defendant's motion requesting the appointment of counsel for his federal habeas proceeding. McFarland filed such a motion and was entitled to the appointment of a lawyer. Pp. 854-857.

(b) The District Court had jurisdiction to grant McFarland's motion for stay of execution. The language of §§ 848(q)(4)(B) and 2251 indicates that "post conviction" and "habeas corpus" refer to the same proceeding. Thus, the two statutes must be read in pari materia to provide

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that once a capital defendant invokes his right to appointed counsel under § 848(q)(4)(B), a proceeding is "pending" under § 2251, such that the federal court has jurisdiction to enter a stay in its sound discretion. The Anti-Injunction Act does not bar the exercise of this authority, since § 2251 expressly authorizes a stay of state-court proceedings "for any matter involved in the habeas corpus proceeding." Pp. 857-858.

7 F.3d 47, reversed.

Blackmun, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. O'Connor, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 859. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, J., joined, post, p. 864.

Mandy Welch argued the cause for petitioner. With her on the briefs was Douglas G. Robinson.

Margaret Portman Griffey, Assistant Attorney General of Texas, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Dan Morales, Attorney General, Jorge Vega, First Assistant Attorney General, Stephani A. Stelmach, Assistant Attorney General, and Drew T. Durham, Deputy Attorney General.[*]

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Justice Blackmun delivered the opinion of the Court.

In establishing a federal death penalty for certain drug offenses under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, 21 U.S.C. § 848(e), Congress created a statutory right to qualified legal representation for capital defendants in federal habeas corpus proceedings. § 848(q)(4)(B). This case presents the question whether a capital defendant must file a formal habeas corpus petition in order to invoke this statutory right and to establish a federal court's jurisdiction to enter a stay of execution.

I

Petitioner Frank Basil McFarland was convicted of capital murder on November 13, 1989, in the State of Texas and sentenced to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence, McFarland v. State, 845 S.W.2d 824 (1992), and on June 7, 1993, this Court denied certiorari. 508 U.S. 963. Two months later, on August 16, 1993, the Texas trial court scheduled McFarland's execution for September 23, 1993. On September 19, McFarland filed a pro se motion requesting that the trial court stay or withdraw his execution date to allow the Texas Resource Center an opportunity to recruit volunteer counsel for his state habeas corpus proceeding. Texas opposed a stay of execution, arguing that McFarland had not filed an application for writ of habeas corpus and that the court thus lacked jurisdiction to enter a stay. The trial court declined to appoint counsel, but modified McFarland's execution date to October 27, 1993.

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On October 16, 1993, the Resource Center informed the trial court that it had been unable to recruit volunteer counsel and asked the court to appoint counsel for McFarland. Concluding that Texas law did not authorize the appointment of counsel for state habeas corpus proceedings, the trial court refused either to appoint counsel or to modify petitioner's execution date. McFarland then filed a pro se motion in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals requesting a stay and a remand for appointment of counsel. The court denied the motion without comment.

Having failed to obtain either the appointment of counsel or a modification of his execution date in state court, McFarland, on October 22, 1993, commenced the present action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas by filing a pro se motion stating that he "wish[ed] to challenge [his] conviction and sentence under [the federal habeas corpus statute,] 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254." App. 42. McFarland requested the appointment of counsel under 21 U.S.C. § 848(q)(4)(B) and a stay of execution to give that counsel time to prepare and file a habeas corpus petition.[1]

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The District Court denied McFarland's motion on October 25, 1993, concluding that because no "post conviction proceeding" had been initiated pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or § 2255, petitioner was not entitled to appointment of counsel and the court lacked jurisdiction to enter a stay of execution. App. 77. The court later denied a certificate of probable cause to appeal.

On October 26, the eve of McFarland's scheduled execution, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his application for stay. 7 F.3d 47. The court noted that federal law expressly authorizes federal courts to stay state proceedings while a federal habeas corpus proceeding is pending, 28 U.S.C. § 2251, but held that no such proceeding was pending, because a "motion for stay and for appointment of counsel [is not] the equivalent of an application for habeas relief." 7 F. 3d, at 49. The court concluded that any other federal judicial interference in state-court proceedings was barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283.

Shortly before the Court of Appeals ruled, a Federal Magistrate Judge located an attorney willing to accept appointment in McFarland's case and suggested that if the attorney would file a skeletal document entitled "petition for writ of habeas corpus," the District Court might be willing to appoint him and grant McFarland a stay of execution. The attorney accordingly drafted and filed a pro forma habeas petition, together with a motion for stay of execution and appointment of counsel. As in the Gosch case, see n. 1, supra, despite the fact that Texas did not oppose a stay, the District Court found the petition to be insufficient and denied the motion for stay on the merits. McFarland v. Collins, No. 4:93-CV-723-A (WD Tex., Oct. 26, 1993).

On October 27, 1993, this Court granted a stay of execution in McFarland's original suit pending consideration of

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his petition for certiorari. 510 U.S. 938. The Court later granted certiorari, 510 U.S. 989 (1993), to resolve an apparent conflict with Brown v. Vasquez, 952 F.2d 1164 (CA9 1991).

II

A

Section 848(q)(4)(B) of Title 21 provides:

"In any post conviction proceeding under section 2254 or 2255 of title 28 seeking to vacate or set aside a death sentence, any defendant who is or becomes financially unable to obtain adequate representation or investigative, expert, or other reasonably necessary services shall be entitled to the appointment of one or more attorneys and the furnishing of such other services in accordance with paragraphs (5), (6), (7), (8), and (9)" (emphasis added).

On its face, this statute grants indigent capital defendants a mandatory right to qualified legal counsel[2 ] and related services "[i]n any [federal] post conviction proceeding." The express language does not specify, however, how a capital defendant's right to counsel in such a proceeding shall be invoked.

Neither the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., nor the rules governing habeas corpus proceedings define a "post conviction proceeding" under § 2254 or § 2255 or expressly state how such a proceeding shall be commenced. Construing § 848(q)(4)(B) in light of its related provisions,

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however, indicates that the right to appointed counsel adheres prior to the filing of a formal,...

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