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HICKS v. DISTRICT COLUMBIA

decided: February 28, 1966.

HICKS
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA



Reported below: See 197 A. 2d 154. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.

Warren, Fortas, Harlan, Brennan, Black, Stewart, Clark, White, Douglas

Author: Per Curiam

[ 383 U.S. Page 252]

 The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.

Disposition

Certiorari dismissed.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, concurring.

Among the several reasons which support the action of the Court in dismissing the writ in this case as improvidently granted, I rest my decision to join in this disposition on the lack of a record, without which I do not believe the constitutional issues tendered can properly be decided.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.

I.

We granted certiorari in this case to consider what I think is an important question: the constitutionality of petitioner's conviction of "vagrancy." Relying on our determination that this case presented substantial questions

[ 383 U.S. Page 253]

     of constitutional law, the parties comprehensively briefed those questions and we heard argument. But now the Court decides that the writ of certiorari must be dismissed as improvidently granted.

With all respect, I must dissent from this disposition of the case.

In the first place, the alleged "untimeliness" of the petition was called to the attention of the Court by respondent in its brief opposing the grant of certiorari. We were thus fully aware of this point when we granted the writ. Moreover, Rule 22 (2) is not jurisdictional or mandatory and may be waived by this Court under proper circumstances, at least where no jurisdictional statute is involved. Heflin v. United States, 358 U.S. 415, 418, n. 7. Having brought the case here, required the parties to brief the issues, and heard argument, it is most inappropriate to decline to exercise our discretion and waive the time bar of Rule 22 (2).*fn1

Nor, in my opinion, is the objection to the adequacy of the record well founded. Petitioner argued in this Court that the statute defining "vagrant" is unconstitutionally vague. The challenged statute is ยง 22-3302 (3) of the District of Columbia Code, and it provides that a "vagrant" is:

"Any person leading an immoral or profligate life who has no lawful employment and who has no

[ 383 U.S. Page 254]

     lawful means of support realized from a lawful occupation or source."

We do not need a detailed account of the particular facts of this case in order to pass on the claim that this statute lacks the specificity that due process of law requires. In Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453, we said:

"If on its face the challenged provision is repugnant to the due process clause, specification of details of the offense intended to be charged would not serve to validate it. . . . It is the statute, not the accusation under it, that prescribes the rule to govern conduct and warns against transgression. . . . No one may be required at peril of life, liberty or property to speculate as to the meaning of penal statutes."

The Court held the challenged statute bad in that case without considering the defendant's conduct which formed the basis of the prosecution. If a penal statute is so imprecise as to deny fair warning to those who might transgress it, any conduct of the defendant prosecuted under it which ...


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