Roberts v. LaVallee
389 U.S. 40 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Roberts v. LaVallee, 389 U.S. 40 (1967)

Roberts v. LaVallee

No.193, Misc.

Decided October 23, 1967

389 U.S. 40

Syllabus

Petitioner, an indigent, was charged in the New York courts with robbery, larceny, and assault. His request for a free copy of a preliminary hearing transcript was denied. A New York statute provides for the furnishing of such a transcript for a fee. Petitioner was convicted, his conviction was affirmed, the New York Court of Appeals denied review, and this Court denied certiorari. At each proceeding, petitioner raised the constitutional issue involving denial of the transcript. His subsequent petition for habeas corpus was denied by the District Court. Thereafter, in People v. Montgomery, 18 N.Y.2d 993, 224 N.E.2d 730 (1966), the New York Court of Appeals held that the statutory requirement of payment for a transcript, as applied to an indigent, constituted a denial of equal protection. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that, in these circumstances, petitioner should return to the state courts for relief under the Montgomery doctrine.

Held:

1. The New York statute results in a difference in access to instruments needed to vindicate legal rights; this difference, based upon a defendant's financial situation, is contrary to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

2. Petitioner had already exhausted his state remedies; no substantial state interest would be served by requiring him to resubmit to the state courts an issue the resolution of which is predetermined by established federal principles.

Certiorari granted; 373 F.2d 49, vacated and remanded.

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