United States v. King, No. 71-1267.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtTAMM, ROBINSON, and ROBB, Circuit
Citation482 F.2d 768
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Thomas Francis KING, Appellant (two cases).
Decision Date18 July 1973
Docket NumberNo. 71-1267.

482 F.2d 768 (1973)

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Thomas Francis KING, Appellant (two cases).

No. 71-1267.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

July 18, 1973.


482 F.2d 769

Melvin M. Feldman and Eugene J. Fitzpatrick, Rockville, Md., were on the brief for appellant.

Harold H. Titus, Jr., U. S. Atty., John A. Terry, Percy H. Russell, Jr., Edwin A. Williams and Raymond Banoun, Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief for appellee.

Before TAMM, ROBINSON, and ROBB, Circuit Judges.

482 F.2d 770

SPOTTSWOOD W. ROBINSON, III, Circuit Judge:

These appeals feature a dispute within one of the areas we recently explored in Coleman v. Burnett:1 the right of the accused at a federal preliminary hearing to examine a witness whose testimony is potentially material to the issue of probable cause to bind the accused over for further prosecution. Asserting a denial of that right, appellant unsuccessfully sought from the District Court an order directing a post-indictment reopening of his preliminary hearing, which culminated in an affirmative determination of probable cause. We find that there was such a denial, but we also find Coleman controlling as to the avenue for remediation. We affirm the District Court's disposition, but without prejudice to an appropriate invocation by appellant of Coleman-type corrective measures.

I

Appellant was charged with rape and three days later he appeared before a judge of the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions,2 sitting as a magistrate,3 for his preliminary hearing. On his objection to a hearing in the absence of the rape-complainant, the judge granted his motion for a continuance and issued a subpoena commanding the complainant to appear on the new date set for the hearing. Despite her compliance with the subpoena and her apparent availability in other respects to testify, the Government rested its entire presentation at the resumed hearing on a hearsay version of the alleged offense by a police officer.4 The presiding judge5 rejected defense objections to the Government's refusal to call the complainant as a witness for the prosecution,6 and denied defense counsel leave to call her to the witness stand himself.7 On the basis of the officer's testimony, the judge found probable cause to hold appellant for grand jury action.8

Subsequently, but before the return of an indictment, appellant moved in the District Court for a reopening of the preliminary hearing. The motion was denied, and one of the present appeals is from that denial. Somewhat later, appellant was indicted for rape9 and robbery,10 and thereafter he presented to the District Court a second motion seeking a supplemental preliminary hearing and, alternatively, a stay of proceedings or injunctive relief. The other appeal is from the denial of that motion. Still later, appellant was found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a hospital, where he remains today.

II

We are met at the threshold by the Government's challenge to our jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. Deeming the orders appealed from nonfinal, and pointing to finality as a prerequisite

482 F.2d 771
to appealability,11 the Government argues that the validity of the denials of appellant's motions to reopen his preliminary hearing is a question not properly before us. By the Government's theory, the only course open to appellant is to await a conviction, and in that event to test the denials on an appeal from the judgment of conviction. We do not agree

To be sure, for familiar reasons, interlocutory orders in criminal cases are generally nonappealable.12 And, again speaking generally, whether the case is civil or criminal in nature, "a `judgment' or `decision' is final for the purpose of appeal only `when it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits of the case, and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined.'"13 But not every order prior to judgment is nonappealable,14 nor is every proceeding collateral to an ongoing criminal prosecution taboo.15 We need not ponder the question whether the District Court's orders denying appellant's motions would be appealable as orders in such a prosecution, for we are satisfied that they were not of that character.

Nearly a decade ago, we laid down the principle that an accused deprived of a substantial right at his preliminary hearing could seek relief by way of habeas corpus or mandamus.16 Certainly if appellant had pursued either of those remedies in the District Court separately from the criminal proceeding, he could have taken an immediate appeal from any adverse final decision.17 Since, on careful analysis, the motions invoking appellant's preliminary hearing entitlements emerge as litigation

482 F.2d 772
substantively apart from the prosecution, the same result must follow

Each of the motions asked the District Court for an order directing the judge who conducted the preliminary hearing to reopen it for the purpose of permitting appellant's counsel to examine the complainant as his witness. The common objective of the motions, then, was relief in the nature of mandamus. The only dissimilarity between appellant's motions and other mandamus undertakings which, for comparable situations, our decisions have approved is that the others have been full-fledged actions for writs of mandamus.18 While undoubtedly it was this dissimilarity that prompted the Government's jurisdictional objection, it nevertheless is a distinction without legal difference.

The crucial fact of the matter is that the directive which appellant sought from the District Court was as readily available in an informal proceeding as in the most formal and elaborate suit in mandamus. In this age of increasing emphasis on simplicity, judicial procedures have shed much of their archaic formalism.19 So, too, the austerity which in earlier times might have pervaded judicial treatment of preliminary hearing problems is largely out of fashion today. Thus a challenge to a magistrate's determination of probable cause to detain the accused need not be confined within the strictures of habeas corpus, but may, and more probably should be, advanced by a motion in the district court.20 Even more relevant is Holmes v. United States,21 in which we specifically held that an accused seeking rectification of a claimed deprivation of rights at his preliminary hearing may, in lieu of a separate action in mandamus, seek redress by a motion in the district court.22 That is precisely what appellant did in the case at bar, and it is evident that the mere fact that his motions were filed in the court which was to become the forum for the criminal prosecution did not make them steps in the prosecution.23 Indeed, when appellant's first motion was presented, he had not even been indicted.

We are advertent to the consideration that appellant's motions did not undertake to join as a party the judge who had presided at his preliminary hearing, but that does not affect the conclusion that the effort remained outside the criminal proceeding. The nonjoinder of the judge was but a dispensable bit of formalism. In the federal courts, when the purpose of mandamus is to secure a ruling on the intrinsic merits of a judicial act, the judge need not — and desirably should not — be named as an active party, but at most only as a nominal party with no real interest in the outcome.24 In the instant

482 F.2d 773
cases, the fact that the judge was not named at all did not alter the essential character of appellant's motions.25 In Ex parte Abdu,26 mandamus was sought in the Supreme Court to compel the clerk of a circuit court of appeals to file an appeal record without prepayment of costs. In response to a rule to show cause, the clerk pointed to the court's action in refusing to direct the filing. The Supreme Court noted "that the remedy prayed is directed not to the court below but to its clerk and hence in form the relief sought is a mandamus to direct the clerk to disobey the order of the court, leaving the order unreviewed and unreversed."27 The Court nonetheless concluded
Looking, however, through form to the essence of things, as no mere independent action of the clerk as clerk is involved, but the authority exerted by the court in directing the action of the clerk complained of is the subject-matter at issue and is the only justification relied upon by the clerk in the answer to the rule, we are of the opinion that in the exercise of a sound discretion we may treat the case from that point of view that is to say, under the circumstances consider the authority to have made the order with the clerk alone as a technical party to the proceeding.28

We believe that here substance must similarly be elevated over form. Although appellant's motions for reopening of his preliminary hearing were technically addressed against the Government,29 it was obvious that if the relief he wanted was to be granted, the direction to reopen would have to run against the judge who had conducted the preliminary hearing. The judge's absence as a formal party to the motions caused no concern to anyone; indeed, the Government did not object, and consequently waived the defect.30

In sum, the motions for reopening were not parts of the criminal proceeding. They were separate, permissible efforts to obtain relief in the nature of mandamus, and their formal deficiencies are inconsequential. The rulings denying relief are appealable, and we now proceed to the appeals on the merits.

III

In contending that he was erroneously denied the privilege of calling the complainant to testify at his preliminary hearing, appellant relies chiefly on our decisions in Washington v. Clemmer31 and Ross v. Sirica.32 In Washington, just as in this case, the accused, who was charged with rape, sought leave to subpoena and question the complainant at his preliminary hearing.33 We held that, absent a showing that it would be...

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19 practice notes
  • Perry, In re, No. 88-1475
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 3, 1989
    ...act, the judge is at most a nominal party), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 933, 97 S.Ct. 2641, 53 L.Ed.2d 250 (1977); United States v. King, 482 F.2d 768, 772 & n. 24 (D.C.Cir.1973) (similar); Walker v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 443 F.2d 33, 34 (7th Cir.1971) (similar); General Tire & Rub......
  • Grand Jury Subpoenas, In re, No. 77-1599
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 5, 1978
    ...Prods., Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336, 352-53, 96 S.Ct. 584, 46 L.Ed.2d 542 (1976). In United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 482 F.2d 768 (1973), it was An accused who has been deprived of a substantial right at his preliminary hearing can seek relief by way of habeas corpus or......
  • U.S. v. Haldeman, Nos. 75-1381
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 8, 1976
    ...1974. United States v. Mitchell, supra note 280, 377 F.Supp. at 1324-1325 & n. 10. 352 United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 183, 482 F.2d 768, 772 (1973), and see cases there cited at n. 353 Fed.R.App.P. 21(b). 354 Id. 355 We are advertent to the decision in Rapp v. Van Dusen, 350 F......
  • Mitchell v. Sirica, No. 74-1492
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 7, 1974
    ...F.2d 894, 900 (1964), cert, denied, 380 U.S. 944, 85 S.Ct. 1029, 13 L.Ed.2d 964 (1965); see United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 482 F.2d 768 (1973); Ross v. Sirica, 127 U.S.App.D.C. 10, 380 F.2d 557...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Perry, In re, No. 88-1475
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • May 3, 1989
    ...act, the judge is at most a nominal party), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 933, 97 S.Ct. 2641, 53 L.Ed.2d 250 (1977); United States v. King, 482 F.2d 768, 772 & n. 24 (D.C.Cir.1973) (similar); Walker v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 443 F.2d 33, 34 (7th Cir.1971) (similar); General Tire & Rub......
  • Grand Jury Subpoenas, In re, No. 77-1599
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 5, 1978
    ...Prods., Inc. v. Hermansdorfer, 423 U.S. 336, 352-53, 96 S.Ct. 584, 46 L.Ed.2d 542 (1976). In United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 482 F.2d 768 (1973), it was An accused who has been deprived of a substantial right at his preliminary hearing can seek relief by way of habeas corpus or......
  • U.S. v. Haldeman, Nos. 75-1381
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 8, 1976
    ...1974. United States v. Mitchell, supra note 280, 377 F.Supp. at 1324-1325 & n. 10. 352 United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 183, 482 F.2d 768, 772 (1973), and see cases there cited at n. 353 Fed.R.App.P. 21(b). 354 Id. 355 We are advertent to the decision in Rapp v. Van Dusen, 350 F......
  • Mitchell v. Sirica, No. 74-1492
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 7, 1974
    ...F.2d 894, 900 (1964), cert, denied, 380 U.S. 944, 85 S.Ct. 1029, 13 L.Ed.2d 964 (1965); see United States v. King, 157 U.S.App.D.C. 179, 482 F.2d 768 (1973); Ross v. Sirica, 127 U.S.App.D.C. 10, 380 F.2d 557...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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