Anders v. California - 386 U.S. 738 (1967)
U.S. Supreme Court
Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967)
Anders v. California
Argued March 14, 1967
Decided May 8, 1967
386 U.S. 738
Counsel, appointed by a California appellate court on petitioner's motion to prosecute the appeal of his felony conviction, concluded after studying the record and consulting with petitioner that there was no merit to the appeal, and so advised the court. He also advised it that petitioner wished to file a brief in his behalf. Petitioner's request for another attorney was denied. He then filed a brief pro se and a reply brief to the State's response. The appellate court, after examining the record, affirmed the conviction. Six years later, petitioner, seeking to reopen his case on the ground that he had been deprived of the right to counsel on his appeal, filed in the appellate court an application for habeas corpus, which the court denied the same day. The court stated that it had again reviewed the record and determined the appeal to be "without merit" (but failed to say whether it was frivolous or not), and that the procedure here followed the California system for handling indigents' appeals approved by that State's Supreme Court as meeting the requirements of Douglas v. California, 372 U. S. 353. Claiming, inter alia, that the judge and prosecutor had erroneously commented on his failure to testify, petitioner filed with the State Supreme Court an application for habeas corpus, which that court denied without giving any reason for its decision.
Held: The failure to grant this indigent petitioner seeking initial review of his conviction the services of an advocate, as contrasted with an amicus curiae, which would have been available to an appellant with financial means, violated petitioner's rights to fair procedure and equality under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 386 U. S. 741-745.
(a) This Court has consistently held invalid those procedures on the first appeal of a conviction where the rich man who appeals as of right enjoys the full benefits of counsel, while the indigent "is forced to shift for himself." Douglas v. California, supra, at 372 U. S. 358. P. 386 U. S. 741.
(c) Counsel's bare no-merit conclusion was not an adequate substitute for petitioner's right to full appellate review. To satisfy the requirement of substantial equality and fair process, counsel must be an active advocate, not just an amicus curiae. Pp. 386 U. S. 742-743.
(d) If counsel conscientiously decides that the appeal is wholly frivolous, he should so advise the court and request permission to withdraw, at the same time furnishing the court and the indigent with a brief of anything in the record arguably supporting the appeal. P. 386 U. S. 744.
(e) If, after full review, the court finds any legal points arguable, it must appoint counsel to argue the appeal; otherwise, it may dismiss the appeal as far as federal requirements are concerned or decide the case on the merits if state law requires. P. 386 U. S. 744.
Reversed and remanded.