MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner is held by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the Western State Penitentiary on sentences totalling a minimum of twenty and a maximum of forty years pronounced pursuant to his pleas of guilty to four indictments charging burglary. We granted certiorari to review a denial by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania of his petition to appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court which affirmed a dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Petitioner claimed in the state courts, and now claims here, that he was denied counsel in the proceedings leading to his convictions in violation of his right to counsel under the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
From the pleadings and decisions of the Pennsylvania courts, certified to us as the record in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and without reliance upon any additional allegations in the petition for certiorari, the facts and allegations as to denial of constitutional rights may be summarized as follows: On October 27, 1938, petitioner Uveges, a youth seventeen years of age, was faced with
Since our understanding is that in Pennsylvania habeas corpus is available to an accused whose constitutional right to counsel has been denied,
Some members of the Court think that where serious offenses are charged, failure of a court to offer counsel in state criminal trials deprives an accused of rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. They are convinced that
The philosophy behind both of these views is that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Fifth Amendment requires counsel for all persons charged with serious crimes, when necessary for their adequate defense, in order that such persons may be advised how to conduct their trials. The application of the rule varies as indicated in the preceding paragraph.
Under either view of the requirements of due process, the facts in this case required the presence of counsel at
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, with whom MR. JUSTICE JACKSON and MR. JUSTICE BURTON concur, dissenting.
Exercise of this Court's jurisdiction is peculiarly for this Court's own determination, and is neither to be conceded nor withheld by counsel's admission. In fact, however, Pennsylvania does not admit that the adjudication by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is reviewable here. It urges that "under such facts as are properly before this Court" petitioner's claim must fail. The circumstances under which this Court is reversing the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania show such disregard for the distribution of judicial power between this Court and the highest courts of the States, that I am constrained to dissent.
As the caption announces, this case was brought here by a writ of certiorari directed to the Supreme Court of
On these allegations, without more, we granted the petition for certiorari on June 7, 1948. The record before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, on the basis of which that Court denied the petition for an appeal to review the order of the Superior Court affirming the refusal of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to issue a writ of habeas corpus, was not before us when we granted certiorari. Not until September 8, 1948, was that record sent here by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; it was lodged here on September 20, 1948. It now appears that the allegations on which this Court issued its writ to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court were not before that Court in the paper it requires to be filed to determine whether under Pennsylvania law an appeal should be entertained. More particularly, the five allegations summarized above had not been before the Supreme Court of Pennrylvania when it denied an appeal. Apart from two claims involving matters of local procedure, the only ground on which appeal was sought from the Pennsylvania Superior Court was the bare claim that petitioner was denied assistance of counsel, unsupported
Having granted a review of the action of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the basis of allegations not before that Court, this Court now holds that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has flouted the Constitution of the United States. It does so despite the fact that at the bar of this Court the representative of Pennsylvania unreservedly admitted that the writ of habeas corpus would not have been dismissed by the courts of Pennsylvania if the allegations that were made here had been made there. We are reviewing what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did. The only matter before that Court was a petition for an allowance of an appeal from the order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The only matter properly before us is disallowance of that appeal. If the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was, as a matter of State law, authorized to disallow the appeal because the claim was not formulated with adequate particularity, a federal question is wanting and our writ, being without proper foundation, should be dismissed. The fact that on adequate allegations in a new proceeding before an appropriate Pennsylvania court the claim may be successfully sustained, gives this Court no warrant for assuming that the proper allegations were before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court so as to transmute its denial of an appeal into the denial of a properly presented federal claim.
This Court now makes such an assumption. If we are to decide a case, however grave the issue, only on what appears according to the record, there is no basis for finding that the Supreme Court had before it anything but the petition for allowance of an appeal. This is so even if we assume, although nothing in the record affords
Unless we are to assume that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania flagrantly violated its duty under Pennsylvania law to grant an appeal where a violation of a right secured by the Constitution of the United States is properly raised, we must attribute to that court a non-constitutional ground in denying an appeal if it may reasonably be so attributed. If that Court had said explicitly that it requires a more particularized statement for the claim that the petitioner did not plead guilty with full understanding of what he was doing and that the failure to assign him counsel in no wise handicapped him in pleading to the indictments, this Court hardly would find that the Constitution of the United States precludes such a State requirement of particularity in an effort to set aside a sentence eight years after it was imposed. If such a determination by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania explicitly made would not raise a federal question, it does not raise a federal question if on the record we have a right to infer that such was the implicit ruling of the Pennsylvania
Since the action of the State court may fairly be sustained on the State ground of failure adequately to present the constitutional claim sought to be raised, we must so interpret it. Klinger v. Missouri, 13 Wall. 257, 263; Lynch v. New York ex rel. Pierson, 293 U.S. 52, 54; Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. v. Oklahoma, 303 U.S. 206, 212. Our reviewing power is of course not to be withheld by excogitating some fanciful or recondite doctrine of local law for a State court decision. Here the State ground is fairly obvious. To reject it is to reach out for a federal issue. The Pennsylvania courts are fully aware of the circumstances under which indigent defendants
Such reasoning is not what is in vidiously called legalistic. Law is essentially legalistic in the sense that observance of well-recognized procedure is, on balance, socially desirable. In the well-being of a federalism like ours observance of what on casual view may appear as a sterile technicality is important whenever this Court is brought in potential conflict with State courts. Especially is it important as to those vast reaches of the criminal law which are exclusively within State domain, and which are therefore not subject to the supervision which this Court may exercise over the lower federal courts. Of course this Court has the duty of alertness in safeguarding rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States against infringement by the States even in their difficult task of repressing crime and dealing with transgressors. At best, however, intervention by this Court in the criminal process of States is delicate business. It should not be indulged in unless no reasonable doubt is left that a State denies, or has refused to exercise, means of correcting a claimed infraction of the United States Constitution.
Intervention by this Court in the administration of the criminal justice of a State has all the disadvantages of interference from without. Whatever short-cut to relief may be had in a particular case, it is calculated to beget misunderstanding and friction and to that extent detracts from those imponderables which are the ultimate reliance of a civilized system of law. After all, this is the Nation's
I would dismiss the writ, leaving petitioner to pursue in Pennsylvania the claim he makes here.
"3. The basic question of this case is whether the petitioner was denied due process of law by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania did not appoint Counsel to represent him in the proceedings leading to his imprisonment. It is the contention of the respondent that the federal Constitution did not require that the state appoint Counsel to represent this accused since
"(A) The requirement of the 6th Amendment to the federal constitution that the accused be represented by counsel in all criminal cases does not apply to the states and
"(B) It is only in a capital case or under other special circumstances not here present that a state is required by the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution to appoint counsel to represent the accused."
"The vital question to be decided, and, in our view of the case the only significant question, is whether the accused, under such facts as are properly before this Court, must be represented by counsel in order that the process leading to his confinement may be deemed due process."
After this Court issued its writ on June 7, 1948, petitioner's attorney filed a "Praecipe" with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania requesting that the papers that now make up the record in this Court be certified to this Court. Although this was done under the Clerk's signature with a statement that "the foregoing Record . . . is a true and faithful copy of the Record and Proceedings of THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA . . . in a certain suit therein pending . . ." that Record shows that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, after our writ of certiorari had been directed to it, had to issue its supplemental certiorari to the Court of Common Pleas to obtain the Record.
CLAIMS MADE IN THE VARIOUS COURTS --------------------------------------------------------------------------- I | II | III | IV -------------------|-----------------|---------------|---------------------- Court of Common | Superior Court | Supreme Court | Supreme Court of the Pleas of | of | of | United States Allegheny County | Pennsylvania | Pennsylvania | -------------------|-----------------|---------------|---------------------- Petition for | Court's | Petition for | Petition for writ writ of | opinion | allowance | of certiorari habeas corpus | | of appeal | -------------------|-----------------|---------------|---------------------- 1 Bare denial of | 1 Same. | 1 Same. | 1 Failure to assign right to | | | counsel resulted counsel. | | | in unfair trial; | | | disabled him from | | | making intelligent | | | plea and led to | | | overreaching by | | | D.A. | | | 2 Signature | 2 Same. | 2 Here denied | 2 Signature not on lacking on | | he signed | indictment. indictment as | | a waiver. | waiver of grand | | | jury | | | presentation. | | | Claims waiver | | | not read to | | | him. | | | | | | 3 Right of | 3 Apparently | 3 No such | 3 Same as No. 3, 17-year-old boy | no such | claim. | Column I. to disaffirm | claim. | | plea of guilt. | | | Also claim of | | | threats and | | | promise of | | | shorter | | | sentence. | | | | | | | 4 Claims to | 4 Same. | 4 Same. | have entered | | | plea of | | | guilty to | | | only one of | | | nine | | | indictments. | | | | | | | | 5 Held incommunicado | | | for two weeks. | | | | | | 6 Refusal of request | | | for consultation | | | with counsel | | | followed by | | | threats. | | | | | | 7 Witnesses not | | | sworn. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------