Puerto Rico v. Branstad

Decision Date23 June 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-2116,85-2116
Citation483 U.S. 219,107 S.Ct. 2802,97 L.Ed.2d 187
PartiesPUERTO RICO, Petitioner, v. Terry E. BRANSTAD et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Respondent Ronald Calder, who had been released on bail after being arraigned in a Puerto Rico court on felony charges, was declared a fugitive from justice when he failed to appear at a preliminary hearing. Believing that Calder had returned to his family's home in Iowa, Puerto Rico officials notified local authorities in Iowa, and Calder surrendered. The Governor of Puerto Rico submitted to the Governor of Iowa a request for Calder's extradition. After a hearing conducted by the Governor's counsel, and after unsuccessful negotiations between officials of the two jurisdictions for a reduction of the charges against Calder, Iowa's Governor denied the extradition request. Puerto Rico then filed suit in Federal District Court, seeking mandamus relief and a declaration that failure to deliver Calder upon presentation of proper extradition papers violated the Extradition Clause of the Federal Constitution and the Extradition Act. The court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the action was barred by the holding in Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 16 L.Ed. 717, that federal courts have no power to order a Governor to fulfill the State's obligation under the Extradition Clause to deliver up fugitives from justice. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Dennison's holding that the federal courts have no authority under the Constitution to compel performance by an asylum State of the mandatory, ministerial duty to deliver up fugitives upon proper demand can stand no longer. Pp. 224-229.

(a) When Dennison was decided in 1861, the practical power of the Federal Government was at its lowest ebb since the adoption of the Constitution. Secession of States from the Union was a fact, and civil war was a threatening possibility. Pp. 224—225.

(b) The other proposition for which Dennison stands—that the Extradition Clause's commands are mandatory and afford no discretion to executive officers of the asylum State—is reaffirmed. However, the, Dennison holding as to the federal courts' authority to enforce the Extradition Clause rested on a fundamental premise—that the States and the Federal Government in all circumstances must be viewed as coequal sovereigns—which is not representative of current law. It has long been a settled principle that federal courts may enjoin unconstitutional action by state officials. Considered de novo, there is no justification for distinguishing the duty to deliver fugitives from the many other species of constitutional duty enforceable in the federal courts. Because the duty is directly imposed upon the States by the Constitution itself, there is no need to weigh the performance of the federal obligation against the powers reserved to the States under the Tenth Amendment. Even assuming, as respondents contend, that there is an "executive common law" of extradition, developed under Dennison, which provides a superior alternative to the "ministerial duty" to extradite provided for by the Constitution, no weight can be accorded to it. Long continuation of decisional law or administrative practice incompatible with the Constitution's requirements cannot overcome this Court's responsibility to enforce those requirements. Pp. 226-229.

2. It need not be determined what applicability the Extradition Clause, which refers only to "States," may have to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, since the Extradition Act clearly applies. Puerto Rico may predicate its mandamus action on the Act, without regard to the Clause's direct applicability. Pp. 229-230.

787 F.2d 423, reversed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, in Parts I, II-A, II-C, and III of which POWELL and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in which SCALIA, J., joined in part. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. ----. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. ----.

Lino J. Saldana, Santurce, P.R., for petitioner.

Brent R. Appel, Des Moines, Iowa, for respondents.

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires that we reconsider the holding of Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 16 L.Ed. 717 (1861), that federal courts have no power to order the Governor of a State to fulfill the State's obligation under the Extradition Clause of the Constitution, Art. IV, § 2, to deliver up fugitives from justice.

I

On January 25, 1981, respondent Ronald Calder, then a civilian air traffic controller employed by the Federal Aviation Administration in San Juan, Puerto Rico, struck two people with his automobile. One of the victims, Antonio de Jesus Gonzalez, was injured; his wife, Army Villalba, was killed. Villalba was eight months pregnant; her unborn child did not survive. App. 3a. The incident occurred in the parking lot of a grocery store in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, after what was apparently an altercation between Calder and de Jesus Gonzalez. According to two sworn statements taken by police, one from de Jesus Gonzalez and one from a witness to the incident, after striking the couple Calder backed his car two or three times over the prostrate body of Villalba. App. to Pet. for Cert. A34-A41.

On the basis of these statements, Calder was arrested, charged with homicide, arraigned before a municipal judge, and released on $5,000 bail. On February 4, 1981, Calder was arraigned before a District Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Calder failed to appear at a preliminary hearing on March 4, 1981, and bail was increased to $50,000. Despite representations by counsel that Calder would appear at a preliminary hearing on April 13, 1981, he did not do so. At that time Calder was declared a fugitive from justice, and bail was increased to $300,000. The Puerto Rican police, having reason to believe that Calder had left Puerto Rico and returned to his family's home in Iowa, notified local authorities in Iowa that Calder was a fugitive wanted in Puerto Rico on murder charges. On April 24, 1981, Calder surrendered to local authorities in Polk County, Iowa, posted the $20,000 bond set by an Iowa Magistrate, and was released. Id., at A18-A19.

On May 15, 1981, the Governor of Puerto Rico submitted to the Governor of Iowa a request for Calder's extradition. The requesting papers included the arrest warrant, the fugitive resolution, the charging documents, and three sworn statements of witnesses, including one in which the affiant identified a photograph of Calder as depicting the driver of the car. Counsel for Calder requested that the Governor of Iowa hold an extradition hearing, which was conducted by the Governor's counsel on June 17, 1981. Id., at A19. This hearing was only partially transcribed, but the record does show that one of Calder's counsel was permitted to testify to his belief that "a white American man . . . could not receive a fair trial in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico," App. 32a, while Calder himself testified to his understanding that "on numerous occasions" witnesses in Puerto Rican courts had been "bought." Id., at 47a.

After the extradition hearing in Iowa, discussions between and among Calder's counsel, the Governors of Iowa and Puerto Rico, and the prosecutorial authorities in Puerto Rico were held, apparently with a view to negotiating a reduction of the charges lodged against Calder. These discussions were unavailing, and on December 28, 1981, Iowa's Governor, Robert Ray, formally notified the Governor of Puerto Rico that in the absence of a "change to a more realistic charge," the request for extradition was denied. App. to Pet. for Cert. A44. A subsequent extradition request made to Governor Ray's successor in office, respondent Terry Branstad, was also denied. Id., at A21.

On February 15, 1984, petitioner Commonwealth of Puerto Rico filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa against respondents Governor Branstad and the State of Iowa,1 seeking a declaration that failure to deliver Calder upon presentation of proper extradition papers violated the Extradition Clause and the Extradition Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3182 (Act).2 The complaint further requested the issuance of a writ of mandamus directing respondent Branstad to perform the "ministerial duty" of extradition. App. 7a-8a. Respondents stipulated before the District Court that the extradition papers fully complied with the requirements of the Act. App. to Pet. for Cert. A20. The District Court dismissed the complaint, agreeing with respondents that this Court's holding in Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 16 L.Ed. 717 (1861), absolutely barred any attempt to invoke federal judicial authority to compel compliance with the Clause or the Act. Civil No. 84-126-E (SD Iowa, May 22, 1985), App. to Pet. for Cert. A10. The Court of Appeals "[r]eluctantly" affirmed. 787 F.2d 423, 424 (CA8 1986).

We granted certiorari, 479 U.S. 811, 107 S.Ct. 60, 93 L.Ed.2d 19 (1986), to consider whether the propositions concerning the limitation of federal judicial power stated in Kentucky v. Dennison in 1861 retain their validity today. We reverse.

II
A.

Kentucky v. Dennison was an action brought under this Court's original jurisdiction to compel by writ of mandamus the extradition of a fugitive felon. The grand jury of Woodford County, Kentucky, returned an indictment in October 1859 charging Willis Lago, a "free man of color," with the crime of assisting the escape of a slave. 24 How., at 67. The defendant was a resident of Ohio, and papers requesting his extradition were served upon William Dennison, the Governor of that State. Dennison secured an opinion from Ohio's Attorney General, who took the...

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