Kaufman v. United States, 53

Decision Date24 March 1969
Docket NumberNo. 53,53
Citation89 S.Ct. 1068,22 L.Ed.2d 227,394 U.S. 217
PartiesHarold KAUFMAN, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Bruce R. Jacob, Tallahassee, Fla., for petitioner.

John S. Martin, Jr., Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question here is whether the claim of a federal prisoner that he was convicted on evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search and seizure is cognizable in a post-conviction proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.1 Petitioner was tried and convicted in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on charges of armed robbery of a federally insured savings and loan association. At trial, petitioner's only defense was insanity. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, on petitioner's direct appeal, affirmed the conviction. Kaufman v. United States, 350 F.2d 408 (1965).

Petitioner then filed this post-conviction proceeding under § 2255 and included a claim that the finding of sanity was based upon the improper admission of unlawfully seized evidence.2 After an evidentiary hearing, the District Judge, who had also presided at petitioner's trial, denied relief with a written opinion. As respects the claim of unlawful search and seizure, the opinion states that: 'The record does not substantiate this claim. In any event, this matter was not assigned as error on Kaufman's appeal from conviction and is not available as a ground for collateral attack on the instant § 2255 motion.' 268 F.Supp. 484, 487 (1967). Petitioner's applications to the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for leave to appeal in forma pauperis were denied.

We treat the actions of the District Court and the Court of Appeals as grounded on the view consistently followed by the Court of Appeals that claims of unlawful search and seizure 'are not proper matters to be presented by a motion to vacate sentence under § 2255 but can only be properly presented by appeal from the conviction.'3 Other courts of appeals have indicated a con- trary view.4 In light of the importance of the issue in the administration of § 2255 we granted certiorari. 390 U.S. 1002, 88 S.Ct. 1250, 20 L.Ed.2d 102 (1968). We reverse.

The authority of the federal courts to issue the writ of habeas corpus was incorporated in the very first grant of federal court jurisdiction made by the Judiciary Act of 1789, c. 20, § 14, 1 Stat. 81, with the limiting provision that 'writs of habeas corpus shall in no case extend to prisoners in goal, unless where they are in custody, under or by colour of the authority of the United States * * *.' Common-law principles initially determined the scope of the writ. Ex parte Bollman, 8 U.S. 75, 4 Cranch 75, 93—94, 2 L.Ed. 554 (1807). In 1867, however, the writ was extended to state prisoners, and its scope was expanded to authorize relief, both as to federal and state prisoners, in 'all cases where any person may be restrained of his or her liberty in violation of the constitution, or of any treaty or law of the United States * * *.' Act of February 5, 1867, c. 28, § 1, 14 Stat. 385.

Section 2255 revised the procedure by which federal prisoners are to seek such relief but did not in any respect cut back the scope of the writ. The section was included in the 1948 revision of the Judicial Code 'at the instance of the Judicial Conference (of the United States) to meet practical difficulties that had arisen in administering the habeas corpus jurisdiction of the federal courts. Nowhere in the history of Section 2255 do we find any purpose to impinge upon prisoners' rights of collateral attack upon their convictions. On the contrary, the sole purpose was to minimize the difficulties encountered in habeas corpus hearings by affording the same rights in another and more convenient forum,' United States v Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 219, 72 S.Ct. 263, 272, 96 L.Ed. 232 (1952) (italics supplied);5 'the legislation was intended simply to provide in the sentencing court a remedy exactly commensurate with that which had previously been available by habeas corpus in the court of the district where the prisoner was confined.' Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 427, 82 S.Ct. 468, 471, 7 L.Ed.2d 417 (1962). Thus, we may refer to our decisions respecting the availability of the federal habeas remedy in deciding the question presented in this case.

We noted in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 409, 83 S.Ct. 822, 832 (1963) that '(t) he course of decisions of this Court * * * makes plain that restraints contrary to our fundamental law, the Constitution, may be challenged on federal habeas even though imposed pursuant to the conviction of a federal court of competent jurisdiction.'6 We have given the same recognition to constitutional claims in § 2255 proceedings. See, e.g., United States v. Hayman, supra; Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 83 S.Ct. 1068, 10 L.Ed.2d 148 (1963); Jordan v. United States, 352 U.S. 904, 77 S.Ct. 151, 1 L.Ed.2d 114 (1956). The courts of appeals which have denied cogn zance under § 2255 to unconstitutional search-and-seizure claims have not generally supplied reasons supporting their apparent departure from this course of our decisions. Rather, these courts have made the bald statement, variously ex- pressed, that a motion under § 2255 cannot be used in lieu of an appeal.7 It is true that in Sunal v. Large, 332 U.S. 174, 179, 67 S.Ct. 1588, 1591, 91 L.Ed. 1982 (1947), we held that 'the writ is not designed for collateral review of errors of law committed by the trial court—the existence of any evidence to support the conviction, irregularities in the grand jury procedure, departure from a statutory grant of time in which to prepare for trial, and other errors in trial procedure which do not cross the jurisdictional line.' But we there recognized that federal habeas relief for constitutional claims asserted by federal prisoners is not limited by that rule. 332 U.S., at 182, 67 S.Ct. at 1592; see also Hill v. United States, supra, at 428, 82 S.Ct. at 471. Later, in Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 311—312, 83 S.Ct. 745, 756, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963), we pointed out the vital distinction between the appellate and habeas functions and concluded that habeas relief cannot be denied solely on the ground that relief should have been sought by appeal to prisoners alleging constitutional deprivations:

'The whole history of the writ—its unique development—refutes a construction of the federal courts' habeas corpus powers that would assimilate their task to that of courts of appellate review. The function on habeas is different. It is to test by way of an original civil proceeding, independent of the normal channels of review of criminal judgments, the very gravest allegations. * * * The language of Congress, the history of the writ, the decisions of this Court, all make clear that the power of inquiry on federal habeas corpus is plenary. Therefore, where an applicant for a writ of habeas corpus alleges facts which, if proved, would entitled him to relief, the federal court to which the application is made has the power to receive evidence and try the facts anew.'

The Government suggests another rationale for denying post-conviction relief to federal prisoners with illegal search-and-seizure claims. The denial of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Government's argument runs, is of a different nature from denials of other constitutional rights which we have held subject to collaterial attack by federal prisoners. For unlike a claim of denial of effective counsel or of violation of the privilege against self-incrimination, as examples, a claim of illegal search and seizure does not impugn the integrity of the fact-finding process or challenge evidence as inherently unreliable; rather, the exclusion of illegally seized evidence is simply a prophylactic device intended generally to deter Fourth Amendment violations by law enforcement officers. This deterrent function, the Government argues, is adequately served by the opportunities afforded a federal defendant to enforce the exclusionary rule before or at trial, so that the relatively minimal additional deterrence afforded by a post-conviction remedy would not seem to justify, except in special circumstances, the collateral release of guilty persons who did not raise the search-and-seizure issue at trial or on direct appeal. In sum, the Government sponsors adoption by this Court of the rule announced in the majority opinion of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Thornton v. United States, 125 ,U.S.App.D.C. 114, 116, 368 F.2d 822, 824 (1966), that in the absence of a showing of 'special circumstances' a claim by a federal prisoner that evidence admitted at his trial was the fruit of an unconstitutional search or seizure is not properly the ground of a collateral attack on his conviction.

The Government concedes in its brief that we have already rejected this approach with respect to the availability of the federal habeas corpus remedy to state prisoners. This rejection was premised in large part on a recognition that the availability of collateral remedies is necessary to inure the integrity of proceedings at and before trial where constitutional rights are at stake. Our decisions leave no doubt that the federal habeas remedy extends to state prisoners alleging that unconstitutionally obtained evidence was admitted against them at trial. See, e.g., Mancusi v. DeForte, 392 U.S. 364, 88 S.Ct. 2120, 20 L.Ed.2d 1154 (1968); Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 88 S.Ct. 1556, 20 L.Ed.2d 554 (1968); Warden, Md. Penitentiary v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 18 L.Ed.2d 782 (1967); see also Henry v. Mississippi, 379 U.S. 443, 452, 85 S.Ct. 564, 570, 13 L.Ed.2d 408 (1965). The Government argues, however, that federal post-conviction relief should not be available to federal prisoners in as broad a range of...

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