Baxstrom v. Herold, No. 219

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWARREN
PartiesJohnnie K. BAXSTROM, Petitioner, v. R. E. HEROLD, Director, Dannemora State Hospital
Docket NumberNo. 219
Decision Date23 February 1966

383 U.S. 107
86 S.Ct. 760
15 L.Ed.2d 620
Johnnie K. BAXSTROM, Petitioner,

v.

R. E. HEROLD, Director, Dannemora State Hospital.

No. 219.
Argued Dec. 9, 1965.
Decided Feb. 23, 1966.

Leon B. Polsky, New York City, for petitioner.

Page 108

Anthony J. Lokot, Albany, for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case to consider the constitutional validity of the statutory procedure under which petitioner was committed to a mental institution at the expiration of his criminal sentence in a state prison.

Petitioner, Johnnie K. Baxstrom, was convicted of second degree assault in April 1959 and was sentenced to a term of two and one-half to three years in a New York prison. On June 1, 1961, he was certified as insane by a prison physician. He was then transferred from prison to Dannemora State Hospital, an institution under the jurisdiction and control of the New York Department of Correction and used for the purpose of confining and caring for male prisoners declared mentally ill while serving a criminal sentence. In November 1961, the director of Dannemora filed a petition in the Surrogate's Court of Clinton County stating that Baxstrom's penal sentence was about to terminate and requesting that he be civilly committed pursuant to § 384 of the New York Correction Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 43.

On December 6, 1961, a proceeding was held in the Surrogate's chambers. Medical certificates were submitted by the State which stated that, in the opinion of two of its examining physicians, Baxstrom was still mentally ill and in need of hospital and institutional care. Respondent, then assistant director at Dannemora, testified that in his opinion Baxstrom was still mentally ill. Baxstrom, appearing alone, was accorded

Page 109

a brief opportunity to ask questions.1 Respondent and the Surrogate both stated that they had no objection to his being transferred from Dannemora to a civil hospital under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mental Hygiene. But the Surrogate pointed out that he had no jurisdiction to determine that question—that under § 384 the decision was entirely up to the Department of Mental Hygiene. The Surrogate then signed a certificate which indicated he was satisfied that Baxstrom 'may require mental care and treatment' in an institution for the mentally ill. The Department of Mental Hygiene had already determined ex parte that Baxstrom was not suitable for care in a civil hospital. Thus, on December 18, 1961, the date upon which Baxstrom's penal sentence expired, custody over him shifted from the Department of Correction to the Department of Mental Hygiene, but he was retained at Dannemora and has remained there to this date.

Thereafter, Baxstrom sought a writ of habeas corpus in a state court. An examination by an independent psychiatrist was ordered and a hearing was held at which the examining psychiatrist testified that, in his opinion, Baxstrom was still mentally ill. The writ was dismissed. In 1963, Baxstrom applied again for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his constitutional rights had been violated and that he was then sane, or if insane, he should be transferred to a civil mental hospital. Due to his indigence and his incarceration in Dannemora, Baxstrom could not produce psychiatric testimony to disprove the testimony adduced at the prior hearing. The writ was therefore dismissed. Baxstrom's alternative request for

Page 110

transfer to a civil mental hospital was again denied as being beyond the power of the court despite a statement by the State's attorney that he wished that Baxstrom would be transferred to a civil mental hospital. On appeal to the Appellate Division, Third Department, the dismissal of the writ was affirmed without opinion. 21 A.D.2d 754, 251 N.Y.S.2d 938. A motion for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals was denied. 14 N.Y.2d 490, 253 N.Y.S.2d 1028, 202 N.E.2d 159. We granted certiorari. 381 U.S. 949, 85 S.Ct. 1810, 14 L.Ed.2d 723.

We hold that petitioner was denied equal protection of the laws by the statutory procedure under which a person may be civilly committed at the expiration of his penal sentence without the jury review available to all other persons civilly committed in New York. Petitioner was further denied equal protection of the laws by his civil commitment to an institution maintained by the Department of Correction beyond the expiration of his prison term without a judicial determination that he is dangerously mentally ill such as that afforded to all so committed except those, like Baxstrom, nearing the expiration of a penal sentence.

Section 384 of the New York Correction Law prescribes the procedure for civil commitment upon the expiration of the prison term of a mentally ill person confined in Dannemora.2 Similar procedures are prescribed for civil

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commitment of all other allegedly mentally ill persons. N.Y.Mental Hygiene Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 27, §§ 70, 72. All persons civilly committed, however, other than those committed at the expiration of a penal term, are expressly granted the right to de novo review by jury trial of the question of their sanity under § 74 of the Mental Hygiene Law. Under this procedure any person dissatisfied with an order certifying him as mentally ill may demand full review by a jury of the prior determination as to his competency. If the jury returns a verdict that the person is sane, he must be immediately discharged. It follows that the State, having made this substantial review proceeding generally available on this issue, may not, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, arbitrarily withhold it from some.

The director contends that the State has created a reasonable classification differentiating the civilly insane from the 'criminally insane,' which he defines as those with dangerous or criminal propensities. Equal protection does not require that all persons be dealt with identically, but it does require that a distinction made have some...

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625 practice notes
  • Mancuso v. Taft, No. 72-1180.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 20, 1973
    ...457, 77 S.Ct. 1344, 1 L.Ed.2d 1485 (1957); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961); Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 86 S.Ct. 760, 15 L.Ed.2d 620 (1966); Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 25 L.Ed.2d 491 (1970); Richardson v. Belcher, 404 U.S......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...Marshall v. United States, 414 U.S. 417, 422 (1974), quoting from McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 270 (1973), and Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 111 (1966). See Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 97 (1979).8 Page 66 Section 1202(a)(1) clearly meets that test. Congress, as its expressed pu......
  • Benham v. Edwards, No. 80-9052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1982
    ...v. Harvey that insanity acquittees are more dangerous than civil committees is inconsistent with the second prong of Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 113, 115, 86 S.Ct. 760, 763, 764, 15 L.Ed.2d 620 (1966). There the Supreme Court held that the fact of Baxstrom's past crime did not establi......
  • Naylor v. Ahlin, No. 2:10-cv-00039-JKS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 1, 2011
    ...Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (2003) (citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). 36. See Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 110-12 (1966) (holding that the denial of a jury trial to determine continued commitment available to other civil committees constituted a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
620 cases
  • Mancuso v. Taft, No. 72-1180.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 20, 1973
    ...457, 77 S.Ct. 1344, 1 L.Ed.2d 1485 (1957); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961); Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 86 S.Ct. 760, 15 L.Ed.2d 620 (1966); Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 25 L.Ed.2d 491 (1970); Richardson v. Belcher, 404 U.S......
  • Lewis v. United States, No. 78-1595
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 27, 1980
    ...Marshall v. United States, 414 U.S. 417, 422 (1974), quoting from McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 270 (1973), and Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 111 (1966). See Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 97 (1979).8 Page 66 Section 1202(a)(1) clearly meets that test. Congress, as its expressed pu......
  • Benham v. Edwards, No. 80-9052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 27, 1982
    ...v. Harvey that insanity acquittees are more dangerous than civil committees is inconsistent with the second prong of Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 113, 115, 86 S.Ct. 760, 763, 764, 15 L.Ed.2d 620 (1966). There the Supreme Court held that the fact of Baxstrom's past crime did not establi......
  • Naylor v. Ahlin, No. 2:10-cv-00039-JKS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 1, 2011
    ...Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (2003) (citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). 36. See Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 110-12 (1966) (holding that the denial of a jury trial to determine continued commitment available to other civil committees constituted a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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