Woods v. Nierstheimer
328 U.S. 211 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Woods v. Nierstheimer, 328 U.S. 211 (1946)

Woods v. Nierstheimer

No. 631

Argued May 2, 1946

Decided May 20, 1946*

328 U.S. 211

Syllabus

More than five years after his conviction for murder on an alleged plea of guilty, petitioner petitioned two Illinois courts for writs of habeas corpus, alleging circumstances which, if true, were sufficient to show that he had been convicted without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Each court denied the petition without an opinion on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action. These orders were not appealable to a higher state court. It appeared that the proper remedy under Illinois law was not a writ of habeas corpus, but a statutory substitute for a writ of error coram nobis, in respect of which there was a five-year limitation.

Held:

1. Since the orders denying writs of habeas corpus were not appealable to a higher state court, this Court is authorized to review them if they are based on decisions of federal questions. P. 328 U. S. 213.

2. Since it appears that the petitions for writs of habeas corpus probably were denied because that was not the proper remedy under Illinois law, the judgments do not clearly present federal questions. P. 328 U. S. 216.

3. The situation is not altered by the fact that the five-year statute of limitations on the proper remedy has expired, since it is not known whether the state courts will construe the statute as depriving petitioner of his right to challenge a judgment rendered in violation of constitutional guaranties. P. 328 U. S. 216.

4. Whether petitioner will be denied any remedy in the state courts will not be known until they have passed on a petition for the proper remedy under state law. P. 328 U. S. 216.

5. If the State should at all times deny all remedies to persons imprisoned in violation of the Constitution, the federal courts would be available to provide a remedy to correct such wrongs. P. 328 U. S. 217.

Dismissed.

Page 328 U. S. 212

Petitioner was denied writs of habeas corpus by state courts from which there was no appeal. This Court granted certiorari. 327 U.S. 772. Dismissed, p. 328 U. S. 217.

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