Betts v. Brady,
316 U.S. 455 (1942)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942)

Betts v. Brady

No. 837

Argued April 13, 14, 1942

Decided June 1, 1942

316 U.S. 455


1. In the light of the applicable law of Maryland, an order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, he being also the judge of that court from the City of Baltimore, denying petitioner's release upon a writ of habeas corpus held reviewable here by certiorari under Jud.Code § 237, as a "final judgment" of the "highest court" in which a decision of the federal question involved could be had. P. 316 U. S. 458.

2. A judgment of a state tribunal denying release on habeas corpus, which is not reviewable in any other state court and ends the particular proceeding, is a final judgment within the meaning of Jud.Code § 237, notwithstanding that, under the state law, the prisoner retains the right to seek discharge by applications to other courts and judges successively. P. 316 U. S. 460.

3. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate, as such, the specific guarantees found in the Sixth Amendment, although a denial by a State of rights or privileges specifically embodied in that and others of the first eight amendments may, in certain circumstances, or in connection with other elements, operate, in a given case, to deprive a litigant of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth. P. 316 U. S. 461.

Page 316 U. S. 456

4. The application of the due process clause to State criminal proceedings is not governed by hard and fast rule. Asserted denial of due process is to be tested by appraisal of all facts in the case, and that which in one setting may constitute a denial of due process because it is a denial of fundamental fairness shocking to the universal sense of justice may, in other circumstances, and in the light of other considerations, fall short of such a denial. P. 316 U. S. 462.

5. Decisions of this Court do not lay down a rule that, in every case, whatever the circumstances, one charged with crime who is unable to obtain counsel must be furnished counsel by the State. P. 316 U. S. 462.

6. A review of state constitutional and statutory provisions on the subject in connection with the common law demonstrates that, in the great majority of the States, it has been the considered judgment of the people, their representatives, and their courts that an appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in criminal cases is not a fundamental right, essential to a fair trial, and that the matter has generally been deemed one of legislative policy. In the light of this evidence, it cannot be said that the concept of due process incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment obliges the State, whatever may be their own views, to furnish counsel in every such case. P. 316 U. S. 471.

7. Upon the facts of this case, the refusal of a state court to appoint counsel to represent an indigent defendant at a trial in which he was connected of robbery did not deny him due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 316 U. S. 472.


CERTIORARI, 315 U.S. 791, to review an order of a judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland from the City of Baltimore, denying petitioner's release upon a writ of habeas corpus.

Primary Holding

Later overruled by Gideon v. Wainwright, this decision held that defendants who cannot afford to pay a lawyer do not have the right to a state-appointed attorney.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.