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05/01/50 Johnson v. Matthews

May 1, 1950




Before CLARK, PRETTYMAN and BAZELON, Circuit Judges.



PRETTYMAN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant is a fugitive from justice in the State of Georgia. He was found in the District of Columbia. The executive authority of Georgia, producing a copy of an indictment charging him with a crime there, and identifying him as the person indicted, demanded his return. He was arrested and, after a hearing, his delivery to an agent of the State of Georgia was ordered. Thereupon he presented to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In the petition he alleged that he had been arrested and jailed in Georgia for robbery; that for ten months he was given no preliminary hearing, indictment *fn1 or trial; and that he thereupon escaped. He alleged that during his incarceration elected local officials "expended every effort" to obtain a sum of money from his wife; that during those months he was moved to three jails, where he was the victim of cruel, barbaric and inhuman treatment, in that he was most severely beaten, starved, and denied clothing or bedding by his jailers, placing his life and health in grave jeopardy. He alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and certain sections of the Constitution of Georgia. On argument he claimed violations of the Sixth Amendment and of the Bill of Rights generally. The District Court denied that petition after hearing oral argument but declining to hear evidence upon the facts alleged as to the treatment in Georgia. This appeal followed.

Article IV, Section 2, clause 2, of the Constitution provides: "A person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime."

The Constitution had hardly been adopted when dispute arose over the requirements of that provision. Pennsylvania was the demanding state and Virginia the state of asylum in a controversy which went to President Washington, from him to Attorney General Edmond Randolph, and from him to the Congress. *fn2 On February 12, 1793, an act *fn3 was approved which became Section 5278 of the Revised Statutes and has remained in effect with minor changes ever since. As it presently appears as Section 3182 of Title 18, United States Code Annotated, it reads: "Whenever the executive authority of any State or Territory demands any person as a fugitive from justice, of the executive authority of any State, District or Territory to which such person has fled, and produces a copy of an indictment found or an affidavit made before a magistrate of any State or Territory, charging the person demanded with having committed treason, felony, or other crime, certified as authentic by the governor or chief magistrate of the State or Territory from whence the person so charged has fled, the executive authority of the State District, or Territory to which such person has fled shall cause him to be arrested and secured, and notify the executive authority making such demand, or the agent of such authority appointed to receive the fugitive, and shall cause the fugitive to be delivered to such agent when he shall appear. If no such agent appears within thirty days from the time of the arrest, the prisoner may be discharged."

In extradition matters in this jurisdiction, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia exercises the functions exercised by the executive authority of a state.

Habeas corpus is the proper process for testing the validity of the arrest and detention by the authorities of the asylum state for extradition purposes. But a petition for a writ for that purpose tests only that detention; it does not test the validity of the original or the contemplated incarceration in the demanding state. The Supreme Court has established the scope of the extradition inquiry and the issues which are presented by it. *fn4 The state cases and other federal court cases upon the subject are myriad. In essence the rule is that the court may determine whether a crime has been charged in the demanding state, whether the fugitive in custody is the person so charged, and whether the fugitive was in the demanding state at the time the alleged crime was committed.4

The question before us is whether a court (either state or federal) in the asylum state can hear and determine the constitutional validity of phases of the penal action by the demanding state in respect to the fugitive or his offense. We think that it cannot do so. Authorities, sound theory of government, and the practical aspects of the problem all require that conclusion. *fn5

The problem is not merely one of forum non conveniens. It involves the interrelationship of governments, both among the states and between the states and the Federal Government. The quoted provision of the Constitution is in the nature of a treaty stipulation between the states, and compliance is a matter of agreed executive comity. In Appleyard v. Massachusetts *fn6 the Supreme Court said: "The constitutional provision relating to fugitives from justice, as the history of its adoption will show, is in the nature of a treaty stipulation entered into for the purpose of securing a prompt and efficient administration of the criminal laws of the several states, - an object of the first concern to the people of the entire country, and which each state is bound, in fidelity to the Constitution, to recognize.A faithful, vigorous enforcement of that stipulation is vital to the harmony and welfare of the states. And while a state should take care, within the limits of the law, that the rights of its people are protected against illegal action, the judicial authorities of the Union should equally take care that the provisions of the Constitution be not so narrowly interpreted as to enable offenders against the laws of a state to find a permanent asylum in the territory of another state."

While the provision of the Constitution, being specific in its reference to "State", may not apply to the District of Columbia, the same basic theory underlies the federal statute which clearly does apply. Both Constitution and statute are explicit and mandatory. They require - not merely suggest - that the fugitive, having been secured, be delivered to the demanding state.

The law of nations, absent treaties, contemplates that every nation control the entrance vel non of persons into its borders; those whom it wishes to stay, stay. *fn7 Since almost every nation wishes, however, to enforce its criminal laws without nullification by the criminal through the simple expedient of leaving the country, treaties of extradition are general throughout the world. *fn8 The complete chaos which would have enveloped law enforcement in the American colonies in the absence of extradition agreements became evident long before the Constitution was written. Such an agreement was incorporated in the Articles of Confederation. *fn9 Without debate it was continued in the Constitution. *fn10

The Federal Government has no function in this interstate arrangement, except that its courts may see, upon petition for habeas corpus, that the states abide the compact; and, of course, its territories must obey the statute. To say that the federal courts may interpose in this process their judgment of the internal processes of the states and the fidelity of their officials to their duties, is to nullify the agreement embedded in the Constitution and to re-establish the rule of the law of nations which it was intended to disestablish. The federal courts have no power to nullify a provision in the Constitution.

Of course, appellant has a right to test in a federal court the constitutional validity of his treatment by Georgia authorities. But that test cannot come as a part of the constitutional process of returning a fugitive to the state where he is charged. If this fugitive's constitutional rights are being violated in Georgia, he can and should protect ...

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