Michel v. State of Louisiana Poret v. State of Louisiana, Nos. 32

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCLARK
Citation100 L.Ed. 83,350 U.S. 91,76 S.Ct. 158
PartiesJohn MICHEL, Petitioner, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA. Clifton Alton PORET and Edgar Labat, Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA
Decision Date05 December 1955
Docket Number36,Nos. 32

350 U.S. 91
76 S.Ct. 158
100 L.Ed. 83
John MICHEL, Petitioner,

v.

STATE OF LOUISIANA. Clifton Alton PORET and Edgar Labat, Petitioners, v. STATE OF LOUISIANA.

Nos. 32, 36.
Argued Nov. 8, 9, 1955.
Decided Dec. 5, 1955.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 23, 1956.

See 350 U.S. 955, 76 S.Ct. 340.

On Writs of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

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Messrs. Gerard H. Schrieber, and George H. Fust, New Orleans, La., for petitioner Michel.

Mr. Leon D. Hubert, Jr., New Orleans, La., for respondent.

Messrs. Felicien Y. Lozes, Rudolph F. Becker, Jr., New Orleans, La., for petitioners Poret and another.

Mr. Adrian G. Duplantier, New Orleans, La., for respondent.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Louisiana requires that objections to a grand jury be raised before the expiration of the third judicial day following the end of the grand jury's term or before trial, whichever is earlier.1 In these cases we are asked to

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decide whether this statute as applied violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The three petitioners, all Negroes sentenced to death for aggravated rape, make no attack on the composition of the petit jury nor on the fairness of their trials but challenge the composition of the grand juries which indicted them on the ground that there was a systematic exclusion of Negroes from the panels. No hearing was held on these allegations because the lower courts found that the question had been waived. In each case the Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed, 225 La. 1040, 74 So.2d 207 and 226 La. 201, 75 So.2d 333, and we granted certiorari, 348 U.S. 936, 75 S.Ct. 361 and 348 U.S. 950, 75 S.Ct. 444, because of the importance of the issues involved.

Grand juries in Orleans Parish are impaneled in September and March to serve for six months. Since § 202 of the Louisiana Criminal Code, as interpreted, requires a defendant to object to the grand jury before three judicial days after its term, the time to raise such objections may vary from a minimum of three days—if the defendant is indicted on the last day of the term—to a much longer period if he is indicted during the term. Section 284 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, LSA—R.S. 15:284, provides that in any case such objections must be made before arraignment.

We do not find that this requirement on its face raises an insuperable barrier to one making claim to federal rights. The test is whether the defendant has had "a reasonable opportunity to have the issue as to the claimed right heard and determined' by the State court.' Parker v. People of State of Illinois, 333 U.S. 571, 574, 68 S.Ct. 708, 710, 92 L.Ed. 886; Davis v. Wechsler, 263 U.S. 22, 44 S.Ct. 13, 68 L.Ed. 143; Central Union Tel. Co. v. City of Edwardsville, 269 U.S. 190, 46 S.Ct. 90, 70 L.Ed. 229; Paterno v. Lyons, 334 U.S. 314, 68 S.Ct. 1044, 92 L.Ed. 1409. See Carter v. State of

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Texas, 177 U.S. 442, 20 S.Ct. 687, 44 L.Ed. 839. In Avery v. State of Alabama, 308 U.S. 444, 60 S.Ct. 321, 84 L.Ed. 377, this Court held that a lapse of three days between the appointment of counsel and the date of trial was not of itself a denial of due process. In Louisiana a motion to quash is a short, simple document, easily prepared in a single afternoon.2 In the light of Avery, a three-day minimum for such a motion is not unreasonable. Wilson

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v. State of Louisiana, 320 U.S. 714, 64 S.Ct. 202, 88 L.Ed. 419.3 But in the circumstances of a particular case, the application of such a rule may not give a reasonable opportunity to raise the federal question. See Reece v. State of Georgia, 350 U.S. 85, 76 S.Ct. 167. Accordingly we pass to a consideration of the facts in each of these cases.

No. 32. John Michel.—Michel was indicted by the grand jury on February 19, 1953, and was presented to the court for arraignment on February 23. He appeared without counsel and the arraignment was continued for one week. During that week, the trial judge talked with Mr. Schreiber, a former assistant district attorney with wide experience in local criminal practice. He asked Mr. Schreiber whether he would take the case if private counsel was not retained. The judge indicated that if Mr. Schreiber accepted, additional counsel would be appointed.

The term of the grand jury which indicted Michel expired March 2, 1953. On that same date Michel appeared again for arraignment without counsel. Mr. Schreiber was also present in court on other business and the trial judge then appointed him counsel for Michel. Whereupon Mr. Schreiber asked the court to give him an opportunity to look it over and continue the matter for one week. No mention of co-counsel was made, and the continuance was granted.

Thereafter, on March 5, Mr. Schreiber received a formal notice of his appointment which, though not required by Louisiana law, appears at times to have been served in appointment cases. On March 6, Mr. Fust was appointed co-counsel. The motion to quash the indictment was filed on March 9—four days after Mr. Schreiber received the formal notice of appointment, and five judicial days

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(7 calendar days) after the expiration of the term of the grand jury. The State demurred on the ground that it came too late.

The determination of a single question of fact is decisive in this case: the precise date of appointment of counsel for Michel. It is contended that Mr. Schreiber was not appointed as counsel until March 5, the date of his formal notice; that he was not aware that he was to be chief counsel until after Mr. Fust told him on the 7th of his appointment to 'assist' Mr. Schreiber; and that even if he assumed that he was appointed on March 2, he was unfamiliar with the case and thought the week's continuance held open for that period all of petitioner's rights. The record, however, shows without contradiction that Mr. Schreiber was appointed in open court, in the presence of petitioner, on March 2. The trial judge so found and the Supreme Court of Louisiana explicitly upheld this finding. While such findings are not conclusive on this Court, Rogers v. State of Alabama, 192 U.S. 226, 24 S.Ct. 257, 48 L.Ed. 417, they are entitled to great weight, Fay v. People of State of New York, 332 U.S. 261, 272, 67 S.Ct. 1613, 1619, 91 L.Ed. 2043. On a question of state practice with which we are unfamiliar, we will not ordinarily overturn the findings of two courts on the mere assertion of counsel that he did not consider himself appointed on the date of record. Since we find that counsel, a lawyer experienced in state criminal practice, had adequate time to file the motion after his appointment, we hold that the application of § 202 in this case was not unreasonable.

No. 36. Poret and Labat.—These co-defendants were also convicted of rape and sentenced to death. Neither made any attack on the composition of the petit jury, but both filed motions to quash their indictments claiming discrimination in the selection of the grand-jury panel. The facts in each case will be considered separately.

Poret.—Shortly after the crime was committed, Poret eluded police officers and fled the State of Louisiana. He

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was indicted on December 11, 1950, but he was not arrested and nothing was known of his whereabouts until late 1951 when Louisiana authorities discovered that he was in prison in Tennessee. That State refused to release him until he had served his term. Louisiana filed a detainer against him, and he was returned to New Orleans on October 3, 1952. At his arraignment on October 27, 1952, he was assisted by counsel of his own selection. He pleaded not guilty to the indictment and was granted additional time to file a motion for severance. On November 7, after denial of his motion for severance, he moved—for the first time—to quash the indictment because of systematic exclusion of Negroes from the grand jury. After a hearing at which it was determined that Poret was a fugitive from justice, this motion was denied by the trial court on the ground that it was filed more than a year and a half too late. Under § 202, the time for filing had expired in March 1951, and the trial court held that the provisions of § 202 would not be 'suspended or nullified for the benefit of a fugitive from justice who, by his own conduct' was unable to assert his right. The holding was affirmed on this ground by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

It is beyond question that under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment Louisiana may attach reasonable time limitations to the assertion of federal constitutional rights.4 More particularly, the State may require prompt assertion of the right to challenge discriminatory practices in the make-up of a grand jury. The problem here is whether such a limitation may be

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avoided by Poret simply on the showing that he was a fugitive from prosecution throughout the entire period provided him.

Petitioner argues that he has had no opportunity to make his challenge to the grand jury, since the time allowed him by § 202 had expired before he was returned to Louisiana. But the record shows that he was not sentenced in Tennessee until five months after that period had expired, and nothing appears to have intervened during this period except his own voluntary flight. Thus Poret's claim is, in effect, that a flight which itself is a violation of federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 1073, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1073, is converted into a federal immunity from the operation of a valid state rule. We do not believe that the mere fugitive status existing here excuses a failure to resort to Louisiana's established statutory procedure available to all who wish to assert claimed constitutional rights. This is not to say that the act of fleeing and becoming a fugitive deprives one of federal rights. We hold only that due regard for the fair as well as effective administration of criminal justice gives the State a legitimate interest in requiring reasonable attacks on its...

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3062 practice notes
  • Bell v. Howes, Case No. 2:06–CV–15086.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan
    • December 28, 2010
    ...challenged action ‘might be considered sound trial strategy.’ ” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ( quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)). In this case, counsel's failure to call two alibi witnesses is objectively unreasonable. The Sixth......
  • Bullock v. Carver, No. 00-4023.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • July 23, 2002
    ...challenged action `might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)) (emphasis added); see also Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 385, 106 S.Ct. 2574, 91 L.Ed.2d 305 (......
  • Escobedo v. Lund, No. C 10–4111–MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 3, 2013
    ...circumstances, the challenged action ‘might be considered sound trial strategy.’ Id. at 689 [104 S.Ct. 2052] (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 164, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)). In applying Strickland, the Iowa Court of Appeals reasonably concluded that the choice to con......
  • Lowery v. Anderson, No. IP 96-71-C-H/G.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • July 6, 1999
    ...the circumstances, the challenged action "might be considered sound trial strategy." See Michel v. Louisiana, supra, [350 U.S.] at 101[ 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)]. There are countless ways to provide effective assistance in any given Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052; acco......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3048 cases
  • Bell v. Howes, Case No. 2:06–CV–15086.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan
    • December 28, 2010
    ...challenged action ‘might be considered sound trial strategy.’ ” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ( quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)). In this case, counsel's failure to call two alibi witnesses is objectively unreasonable. The Sixth......
  • McWhorter v. Dunn, Case No. 4:13-CV-02150-RDP
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • January 22, 2019
    ...the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action "might be considered sound trial strategy." See Michel v. Louisiana, [350 U.S. 91], at 101 [76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955) ]. There are countless ways to provide effective assistance in any given case. Even the best cri......
  • Jones v. Mcneil, Case No: 07-22890-CIV-ZLOCH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • March 7, 2011
    ...the challenged action 'might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)). See also Chandler v. United Page 21 States, 218 F.3d 1305, 1314 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc). "Given the strong presumption in favor of compet......
  • Bullock v. Carver, No. 00-4023.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • July 23, 2002
    ...challenged action `might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)) (emphasis added); see also Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 385, 106 S.Ct. 2574, 91 L.Ed.2d 305 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Warren Court - After Three Terms
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 9-4, December 1956
    • December 1, 1956
    ...85 (1955), and Pennsylvania ex rel. Herman v. Claudy, 350 U.S. 116 (1956). 43 Chessman v. Teets, 350 U.S. 3 (1955); Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91 (1955); v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956); Durley v. Mayo, no. 489, U.S. Sup. Ct., June 4, 1956; and United States ex rel. Darcy v. Handy, no. 3......

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