Brown v. Allen
344 U.S. 443 (1953)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443 (1953)

Brown v. Allen

No. 32

Argued April 29, 1952

Reargued October 13, 1952

Decided February 9, 1953*

344 U.S. 443

Syllabus

1. Where, on direct review of his conviction, a state prisoner's claim of federal constitutional right has been decided adversely to him by the state supreme court and an application to this Court for certiorari has been denied, he has satisfied the requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 that state remedies be exhausted before a federal court may grant an application for habeas corpus. Pp. 344 U. S. 446-450.

(a) It is not necessary in such circumstances that he pursue in the state courts a collateral remedy based on the same evidence and issues. Pp. 344 U. S. 447-450.

(b) Section 2254 is not to be construed as requiring repetitious applications to state courts for relief. P. 344 U. S. 448, n. 3.

2. A denial of certiorari by this Court (with no statement of reasons therefor) to review a decision of a state supreme court affirming a conviction in a criminal prosecution should be given no weight by a federal court in passing upon the same petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus . (Opinion of MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, stating the position of a majority of the Court on this point.) Pp. 344 U. S. 489-497.

3. On a state prisoner's application for habeas corpus on federal constitutional grounds, the federal district court may take into consideration the proceedings and adjudications in the state trial and appellate courts. Pp. 344 U. S. 457-458.

(a) Where the state decision was based on an adequate state ground, no further examination is required unless no state remedy for the deprivation of federal constitutional rights ever existed. P. 344 U. S. 458.

(b) Where there is material conflict of fact in the transcript of evidence as to deprivation of constitutional rights, the district court

Page 344 U. S. 444

may properly depend upon the state's resolution of the issue. P. 344 U. S. 458.

(c) In other circumstances, the state adjudication carries the weight that federal practice gives to the conclusion of a court of last resort of another jurisdiction on federal constitutional issues, although res judicata is not applicable. P. 344 U. S. 458.

4. Although in each of these cases the District Court erroneously gave consideration to this Court's prior denial of certiorari, it affirmatively appears from the record that the error could not have affected the result, and such error may be and is disregarded as harmless. Fed.Rules Crim.Proc., 52. Pp. 344 U. S. 458-460.

5. On the application of a state prisoner to a federal district court for habeas corpus, when the records of the state trial and appellate courts are before the district court, it is within the discretion of the district court whether to take evidence and hear argument on the federal constitutional issues, and the action of the district court in not taking evidence or hearing argument in the case here involved was not an abuse of that discretion. Pp. 344 U. S. 460-465.

6. In 28 U.S. C. §§ 2243 and 2244, the word "entertain" means a federal district court's conclusion, after examination of the habeas corpus application with such accompanying papers as the court deems necessary, that a hearing on the merits, legal or factual, is proper. Pp. 344 U. S. 460-461.

7. In No. 32, petitioner, a Negro, was not denied due process or equal protection in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by the method of selecting grand and petit juries from lists limited by state statute to taxpayers, though the lists had a higher proportion of white than Negro citizens. Pp. 344 U. S. 466-474.

8. In No. 32, petitioner was not denied due process by the admission in evidence against him of confessions not shown to have been coerced. Pp. 344 U. S. 474-476.

9. In No. 22, petitioner, a Negro, did not show by clear evidence that, in the selection of jurors which was actually made in his case, there was discrimination based solely on race; and petitioner's conviction cannot be set aside on that ground as violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The comparatively small number of names of Negroes in the jury box was insufficient, in itself, to establish such discrimination. Pp. 344 U. S. 477-482.

10. In No. 20, the State Supreme Court had refused review on the merits of petitioners' conviction and death sentence (challenged on federal constitutional grounds) because of petitioners' failure to perfect their appeal within the 60-day limit applicable under state

Page 344 U. S. 445

law, the appeal not having been perfected until the 61st day. Held: a failure to use a state's available remedy, in the absence of some interference or incapacity, bars federal habeas corpus. Pp. 344 U. S. 482-487.

192 F. 2d 477, 763, affirmed.

For Opinion of the Court, see post, p. 344 U. S. 446.

For notation of MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, concurring in the result, see post, p. 344 U. S. 487.

For notation of position of MR. JUSTICE BURTON and MR. JUSTICE CLARK, see post, p. 344 U. S. 487.

For opinion of MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER as to the legal significance of this Court's denial of certiorari and the bearing of proceedings in state courts on disposition of application for writ of habeas corpus in a federal district court, see post, p. 344 U. S. 488.

For notation of position of MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS on the same two points, see post, p. 344 U. S. 513.

For opinion of MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, concurring in the result announced by the Opinion of the Court, see post, p. 344 U. S. 532.

For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE BLACK, joined by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, see post, p. 344 U. S. 548.

For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, joined by MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, see post, p. 344 U. S. 554.

No.32. Petitioner, a state prisoner, applied to the Federal District Court for habeas corpus, after his petition to this Court for certiorari to review the State Supreme Court's affirmance of his conviction had been denied. 341 U.S. 943. The District Court dismissed the application. 98 F. Supp. 866. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 192 F. 2d 477. This Court granted certiorari. 343 U.S. 903. The case was argued at the October 1951 Term, but was restored to the docket for reargument. 343 U.S. 973. Judgment affirmed, p. 344 U. S. 487.

No. 22. Petitioner, a state prisoner, applied to the Federal District Court for habeas corpus, after his petition to this Court for certiorari to review the State Supreme Court's affirmance of his conviction had been denied. 340 U.S. 835. The District Court dismissed

Page 344 U. S. 446

the application. 99 F.Supp. 92. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 192 F.2d 477. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 953. The case was argued at the October 1951 Term, but was restored to the docket for reargument. 343 U.S. 973. Judgment affirmed, p. 487.

No. 20. Petitioners, state prisoners, applied to the Federal District Court for habeas corpus after this Court had denied their petition for certiorari to review the State Supreme Court's refusal to consider on the merits an appeal from their conviction. 339 U.S. 954. The District Court dismissed the application. 99 F.Supp. 208. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 192 F.2d 763. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 941. The case was argued at the October 1951 Term, but was restored to the docket for reargument. 343 U.S. 973. Judgment affirmed, p. 344 U. S. 487.

Primary Holding
The habeas jurisdiction of federal courts allows them to review criminal convictions once remedies at the state level are no longer available.
Facts
Brown, Daniels, and Speller were three African-American men who were sentenced to death in North Carolina. They argued that racial discrimination had infected the jury selection process in their original trials. They were unsuccessful on their appeals in the state court, so they filed habeas petitions in federal courts. Their cases were consolidated, and the lower court ruled that a federal court could not consider a habeas petition that arose from the same question that a state court previously had rejected.

Opinions

Majority

  • Felix Frankfurter (Author)
  • Frederick Moore Vinson
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • William Orville Douglas
  • Harold Hitz Burton
  • Tom C. Clark
  • Sherman Minton

Habeas claims based on state court convictions generally are rejected, but federal courts must take habeas jurisdiction pursuant to the Act of 1867. However, they may adjust their procedures on the basis that very few of these claims are valid. Courts may require the petitioner to make a prima facie case, exhaust state remedies, and provide a record of the state proceedings, and federal courts must accept findings of basic facts made by state courts. On the other hand, they must independently resolve matters of federal law and mixed questions of law and fact.

Concurrence

  • Robert Houghwout Jackson (Author)

Courts must be able to develop procedures that allow them to easily discard frivolous claims. While substantive due process is necessarily a vague field of law, federal courts should review habeas petitions only if they involve jurisdictional questions based on federal law or if the defendant was improperly prevented from making a record and presenting a constitutional question.

Case Commentary

Habeas proceedings usually do not extend to evidentiary investigations of the underlying facts giving rise to the conviction, partly because statutes have explicitly narrowed the scope of this type of jurisdiction.

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