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Grant v. Hogan

decided: November 20, 1974.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (D.C. H.C. No. 1550).

Van Dusen, Hunter and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hunter


HUNTER, Circuit Judge:

This case presents the question of whether a federal prisoner, against whom a state other than the one of confinement has lodged a detainer based on a pending criminal charge, must first pursue his remedies under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, 18 U.S.C. App. Article III,*fn1 before seeking relief from that detainer in federal court.

Since January 5, 1972, Petitioner Grant has been a prisoner at the Lewisburg federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania, and is currently serving a 15-year term on a federal conviction, with a mandatory release date of August 16, 1981. On February 2, 1972, the Connecticut Attorney General lodged a detainer against Petitioner on the basis of a charge pending in that state for "robbery with violence." Grant had been prosecuted on that charge in 1970, but a mistrial resulted, and the State of Connecticut has taken no steps since then to initiate a second trial.

Although the prison officials at Lewisburg promptly notified Grant of the detainer and of his rights under the Interstate Agreement, he did not seek to invoke the provisions of the Agreement. Rather, over a year later, on February 21, 1973, he filed a motion with the Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford to dismiss the criminal charge for lack of prosecution. This motion was summarily denied on March 2, 1973, and there is no indication anywhere in the record that Grant appealed from that dismissal or took any further action in Connecticut with respect to the outstanding indictment. On November 29, 1973, allegedly after making repeated requests to George C. Nye of the records office at Lewisburg to remove the detainer, he sought relief in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by means of a pro se petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The district court dismissed the petition on the ground that Grant had failed to pursue his remedies under the Interstate Agreement and had failed to request that the Connecticut charge be acted upon through the mechanism provided by the Agreement. It is from this ruling that the Petitioner appeals. We affirm.

The law with respect to attacks on detainers presents a number of complex procedural hurdles for lawyers as well as for pro se litigants,*fn2 and thus we consider it necessary to discuss in some detail the variety of possible routes a prisoner may pursue and their applicability to this case.

We will first note what is not involved in this case. In his petition filed with the district court and in his brief on appeal, Grant makes clear that he does not seek to bar prosecution on the underlying indictment, even though he claims that he has been denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Rather, he seeks relief from the detainer through an order requiring the Respondent, the warden of the Lewisburg penitentiary, to "hold for naught" the Connecticut detainer and to give it no effect. Thus, this case is not directly controlled by those decisions which have held that a prisoner may sue in habeas corpus either to demand an immediate trial*fn3 or to bar prosecution on the underlying charge on speedy trial grounds.*fn4

Furthermore, the Petitioner does not challenge as unconstitutional the effect which the Lewisburg prison officials may be giving the detainer. The lodging of detainers frequently results in the placing of additional restrictions on prisoners and the loss of opportunities to participate in rehabilitation programs and receive parole, and the courts have shown an increasing willingness to grant habeas corpus or other types of relief against such restrictions.*fn5 While the Petitioner here states that he is attacking the detainer in order to be relieved of its adverse effects, the thrust of his challenge is not directed against those effects, but rather against the detainer itself, which he claims is invalid because of the failure of Connecticut officials to afford him a speedy trial on the underlying indictment. His challenge to the restrictions is therefore only incidental to his basic challenge to the detainer.*fn6

It is clear that habeas corpus is a proper vehicle for challenging a detainer on the ground that prosecution on the underlying charges would be unconstitutional. In United States ex rel. Jennings v. State of Pennsylvania, 429 F.2d 522, 523 (3d Cir. 1970), this Circuit held that a state prisoner may sue under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for an order directing his warden not to hold him subject to the out-of-state detainer.*fn7 We also noted there that habeas corpus relief would be available only if the prisoner had exhausted the remedies available to him in the indicting state when seeking his right to a speedy trial on the underlying charges.*fn8

Unlike Jennings, however, this suit can be brought only under 28 U.S.C. § 2241,*fn9 which does not by its terms require the exhaustion of state remedies or of any other types of remedies. Nevertheless, despite the absence of an explicit exhaustion requirement in section 2241, we have held that federal prisoners suing under section 2241 must first exhaust available administrative remedies. In Soyka v. Alldredge, 481 F.2d 303 (3d Cir. 1973), we held that a prisoner suing under section 2241 to seek credit toward a sentence for time allegedly spent in prison prior to sentencing must first exhaust administrative remedies by seeking relief from the Attorney General or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons after his request had initially been denied by his warden. We required such exhaustion because Congress had enacted a statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3658, which provided that the Attorney General shall give federal prisoners whatever credit they are entitled to.*fn10

Whether the remedies afforded by the Interstate Agreement be characterized as administrative or judicial, we believe that this is even a stronger case for requiring exhaustion by federal prisoners than Soyka, since the remedies provided by the Interstate Agreement are more explicit. In making the United States a party to the Agreement, Congress thereby established a simple procedure which permits the speedy disposition of any untried indictment, information or complaint and the dismissal of any untried charges, along with the removal of any detainer based thereon, where the indicting state has not responded within the required period of time to a prisoner's request. It is evident, therefore, that the Agreement provides an effective remedy for the disposition of the Petitioner's claim and that requiring resort to the Agreement may make unnecessary any intervention by the federal courts.*fn11 See McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 195, 23 L. Ed. 2d 194, 89 S. Ct. 1657 (1969). We therefore believe that it is in the interests of sound judicial administration, and consistent with established principles, to require that prisoners pursue those remedies before seeking relief in the federal courts under section 2241.

While we affirm the district court's action requiring resort to the Interstate Agreement in this case, we recognize that there may be unusual circumstances, not present here, in which failure to pursue remedies under the Agreement would not necessarily preclude habeas corpus relief. If, for example, the Petitioner had demanded a speedy trial of the Connecticut courts without invoking the provisions of the Agreement, had moved to dismiss the charges for lack of speedy prosecution, and had sought and obtained appellate review of the denial of his motion to dismiss, habeas corpus relief might be available despite his failure to pursue his remedies under the Interstate Agreement. In such a situation, where the highest state court in Connecticut had already decided that the Petitioner's right to a speedy trial had not been violated, it would appear useless to require resort to the Agreement. In this case, however, the only action the Petitioner took in Connecticut was to ...

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