MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a habeas corpus action in which the petitioner attacks the validity of the denial of his application for suspension of deportation under the provisions of § 19 (c) of the Immigration Act of 1917.
The Justice Department's immigration file on petitioner reveals the following relevant facts. He was born in Italy of Italian parents in 1909 and entered the United States by train from Canada in 1932 without immigration inspection and without an immigration visa. This entry clearly falls under § 14 of the Immigration Act of 1924
Hearings on the deportation charge and the application for suspension of deportation were held before officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at various times from 1948 to 1952. A hearing officer ultimately found petitioner deportable and recommended a denial of discretionary relief. On July 7, 1952, the Acting Commissioner of Immigration adopted the officer's findings and recommendation. Almost nine months later, on April 3, 1953, the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision of the hearing officer. A warrant of deportation was issued the same day and arrangements were made for actual deportation to take place on April 24, 1953.
The scene of action then shifted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. One day before his scheduled deportation petitioner sued out a writ of habeas corpus. District Judge Noonan dismissed the writ on April 30 and his order, formally entered on May 5, was never appealed. Arrangements were then made for petitioner to depart on May 19.
District Judge Clancy did not order a hearing on the allegations and summarily refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus. An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with the contention that the allegations required a hearing in the District Court and that the writ should have been issued if the allegations were proved. A majority of the Court of Appeals' panel thought the administrative record amply supported a refusal to suspend deportation; found nothing in the record to indicate that the administrative officials considered anything but that record in arriving at a decision in the case; and ruled that the assertion of mere "suspicion and belief" that extraneous matters were considered does not require a hearing. Judge Frank dissented.
The same questions presented to the Court of Appeals were raised in the petition for certiorari and are thus properly before us. The crucial question is whether the alleged conduct of the Attorney General deprived petitioner of any of the rights guaranteed him by the statute or by the regulations issued pursuant thereto.
The regulations just quoted pinpoint the decisive fact in this case: the Board was required, as it still is, to exercise its own judgment when considering appeals. The clear import of broad provisions for a final review by the Attorney General himself would be meaningless if the Board were not expected to render a decision in accord with its own collective belief. In unequivocal terms the regulations delegate to the Board discretionary authority as broad as the statute confers on the Attorney General; the scope of the Attorney General's discretion became the yardstick of the Board's. And if the word "discretion"
We think the petition for habeas corpus charges the Attorney General with precisely what the regulations forbid him to do: dictating the Board's decision. The petition alleges that the Attorney General included the name of petitioner in a confidential list of "unsavory characters" whom he wanted deported; public announcements clearly reveal that the Attorney General did not regard the listing as a mere preliminary to investigation and deportation; to the contrary, those listed were persons whom the Attorney General "planned to deport." And, it is alleged, this intention was made quite clear to the Board when the list was circulated among its members. In fact, the Assistant District Attorney characterized it as the "Attorney General's proscribed list of alien deportees." To be sure, the petition does not allege that the "Attorney General ordered the Board to deny discretionary relief to the listed aliens." It would be naive to expect such a heavy-handed way of doing things. However, proof was offered and refused that the Commissioner of Immigration told previous counsel of petitioner, "We can't do a thing in your case because the Attorney General has his [petitioner's] name on that list of a hundred." We believe the allegations are quite sufficient where the body charged with the exercise of discretion is a nonstatutory board composed of subordinates within a department headed by the individual who formulated, announced, and circulated such views of the pending proceeding.
If petitioner can prove the allegation, he should receive a new hearing before the Board without the burden of previous proscription by the list. After the recall or cancellation of the list, the Board must rule out any consideration thereof and in arriving at its decision exercise its own independent discretion, after a fair hearing, which is nothing more than what the regulations accord petitioner as a right.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, whom MR. JUSTICE REED, MR. JUSTICE BURTON, and MR. JUSTICE MINTON join, dissenting.
We feel constrained to dissent from the legal doctrine being announced. The doctrine seems proof of the adage that hard cases make bad law.
Peculiarities which distinguish this administrative decision from others we have held judicially reviewable must be borne in mind. The hearings questioned here as to their fairness were not hearings on which an order
Congress vested in the Attorney General, and in him alone, discretion as to whether to suspend deportation under certain circumstances. We think a refusal to exercise that discretion is not reviewable on habeas corpus, first, because the nature of the power and discretion vested in the Attorney General is analogous to the power of pardon or commutation of a sentence, which we trust no one thinks is subject to judicial control; and second, because no legal right exists in petitioner by virtue of constitution, statute or common law to have a lawful order of deportation suspended. Even if petitioner proves himself eligible for suspension, that gives him no right to it as a matter of law but merely establishes a condition precedent to exercise of discretion by the Attorney General. Habeas corpus is to enforce legal rights, not to transfer to the courts control of executive discretion.
The ground for judicial interference here seems to be that the Board of Immigration Appeals did find, or may have found, against suspension on instructions from the Attorney General. Even so, this Board is neither a judicial body nor an independent agency. It is created by the Attorney General as part of his office, he names its members, and they are responsible only to him. It operates under his supervision and direction, and its every
The Court appears to be of the belief that habeas corpus will issue to review a decision by the Board. It is treating the Attorney General's regulations as if they vested in the Board final authority to exercise his discretion. But, in our view, the statute neither contemplates nor tolerates a redelegation of his discretion by the Attorney General so as to make the decision of the Board, even if left standing by him, final in the sense of being subject to judicial review as the Board's own decision. Even the Attorney General was not entrusted with this discretion free of all congressional control, for Congress specifically reserved to itself power to overrule his acts of grace. 54 Stat. 672, 8 U. S. C. (1946) § 155 (c), as amended, 8 U. S. C. (Supp. V) § 155 (c). It overtaxes our naivete about politics to believe Congress would entrust the power to a board which is not the creature of Congress and whose members are not subject to Senate confirmation.
Cases challenging deportation orders, such as Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, whatever their merits or demerits, have no application here. In cases where the question is the validity of a deportation order, habeas corpus will issue at least to review jurisdictional questions. In those cases, also, the petitioner has a legal right to assert, viz., a private right not to be deported except upon grounds prescribed by Congress. Neither the validity of deportation nor a private right is involved here.
"Nothing contained in this Act, unless otherwise specifically provided therein, shall be construed to affect the validity of any . . . proceeding which shall be valid at the time this Act shall take effect; or to affect any . . . proceedings . . . brought . . . at the time this Act shall take effect; but as to all such . . . proceedings, . . . the statutes or parts of statutes repealed by this Act are, unless otherwise specifically provided therein, hereby continued in force and effect. . . . An application for suspension of deportation under section 19 of the Immigration Act of 1917, as amended, . . . which is pending on the date of enactment of this Act [June 27, 1952], shall be regarded as a proceeding within the meaning of this subsection." 66 Stat. 280, 8 U. S. C. (1952 ed.), p. 734.
Since Accardi's application for suspension of deportation was made in 1948, § 19 (c) of the 1917 Act continues to govern this proceeding rather than its more stringent equivalent in the 1952 Act, § 244, 66 Stat. 214, 8 U. S. C. (1952 ed.) § 1254.