MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
The respondent, Gary Darrell Allison, an inmate of a North Carolina penitentiary, petitioned a Federal District Court for a writ of habeas corpus. The court dismissed his petition without a hearing, and the Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that in the circumstances of this case summary dismissal was improper. We granted certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Allison was indicted by a North Carolina grand jury for breaking and entering, attempted safe robbery, and possession of burglary tools. At his arraignment, where he was represented by court-appointed counsel, he initially pleaded not guilty. But after learning that his codefendant planned to plead guilty, he entered a guilty plea to a single count of attempted safe robbery, for which the minimum prison sentence was 10 years and the maximum was life. N. C. Gen. Stat. § 14-89.1 (1969).
In accord with the procedure for taking guilty pleas then in effect in North Carolina, the judge in open court read from a printed form 13 questions, generally concerning the defendant's understanding of the charge, its consequences, and the voluntariness of his plea. Allison answered "yes" or "no" to each question, and the court clerk transcribed those responses on a copy of the form, which Allison signed. So far as the record shows, there was no questioning beyond this routine; no inquiry was made of either defense counsel or prosecutor. Two questions from the form are of particular relevance to the issues before us: Question No. 8—"Do you
The trial judge then accepted the plea by signing his name at the bottom of the form under a text entitled "Adjudication," which recited the three charges for which Allison had been indicted, that he had been fully advised of his rights, was in fact guilty, and pleaded guilty to attempted safe robbery "freely, understandingly and voluntarily," with full awareness of the consequences, and "without undue . . . compulsion . . . duress, [or] promise of leniency."
After unsuccessfully exhausting a state collateral remedy,
The petition went on to explain and support this allegation as follows:
The petitioner here, Warden Blackledge, filed a motion to dismiss and attached to it the "transcript" of the plea hearing, consisting of nothing more than the printed form filled in by the clerk and signed by Allison and the state-court judge. The motion contended that the form conclusively showed that
One week later Allison filed a petition for rehearing. He contended that his statements during the guilty-plea proceeding in the state court were "evidentiary, but NOT conclusory" (App. 17); that if true the allegations in his petition entitled him to relief; and that he deserved a chance to establish their truth. Apparently impressed by these arguments and recognizing that Allison was alleging more than a mere "prediction" by his lawyer, the District Court referred the rehearing petition to a United States Magistrate, who directed Allison to submit evidence in support of his allegations. After an inconclusive exchange of correspondence, the Magistrate concluded that despite "ample opportunity" Allison had failed to comply with the directive, and recommended that the petition for rehearing be denied. The District Court accepted the Magistrate's recommendation and denied the petition. A motion for reconsideration was also denied.
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed. It held that Allison's allegation of a broken promise, as amplified by the explanation that his lawyer instructed him to deny the existence of any promises, was not foreclosed by his responses to the form questions at the state guilty-plea proceeding. The appellate court reasoned that when a pro se, indigent prisoner makes allegations that, if proved, would entitle him to habeas corpus relief, he should not be required to prove his allegations in advance of an evidentiary hearing, at least in the absence of counter affidavits conclusively proving their
The petitioner warden sought review in this Court, 28 U. S. C. § 1254 (1), and we granted certiorari, 429 U.S. 814, to consider the significant federal question presented.
Whatever might be the situation in an ideal world, the fact is that the guilty plea and the often concomitant plea bargain are important components of this country's criminal justice system. Properly administered, they can benefit all concerned. The defendant avoids extended pretrial incarceration and the anxieties and uncertainties of a trial; he gains a speedy disposition of his case, the chance to acknowledge his guilt, and a prompt start in realizing whatever potential there may be for rehabilitation. Judges and prosecutors conserve vital and scarce resources. The public is protected from the risks posed by those charged with criminal offenses who are at large on bail while awaiting completion of criminal proceedings.
These advantages can be secured, however, only if dispositions by guilty plea are accorded a great measure of finality. To allow indiscriminate hearings in federal postconviction proceedings, whether for federal prisoners under 28 U. S. C. § 2255 or state prisoners under 28 U. S. C. §§ 2241-2254, would eliminate the chief virtues of the plea system—speed, economy, and finality. And there is reason for concern about that prospect. More often than not a prisoner has everything to gain and nothing to lose from filing a collateral attack upon his guilty plea. If he succeeds in vacating the judgment of
Yet arrayed against the interest in finality is the very purpose of the writ of habeas corpus—to safeguard a person's freedom from detention in violation of constitutional guarantees. Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-291. "The writ of habeas corpus has played a great role in the history of human freedom. It has been the judicial method of lifting undue restraints upon personal liberty." Price v. Johnston, supra, at 269. And a prisoner in custody after pleading guilty, no less than one tried and convicted by a jury, is entitled to avail himself of the writ in challenging the constitutionality of his custody.
In Machibroda v. United States, supra, the defendant had pleaded guilty in federal court to bank robbery charges and been sentenced to 40 years in prison. He later filed a § 2255 motion alleging that his plea had been induced by an Assistant United States Attorney's promises that his sentence would not exceed 20 years, that the prosecutor had admonished him not to tell his lawyer about the agreement, and that the trial judge had wholly failed to inquire whether the guilty plea was made voluntarily before accepting it. This Court noted that the allegations, if proved, would entitle the defendant to relief, and that they raised an issue of fact that could not be resolved simply on the basis of an affidavit from the prosecutor denying the allegations. Because those allegations "related primarily to purported occurrences outside the courtroom and upon which the record could, therefore, cast no real light," 368 U. S., at 494-495, and were not so "vague [or] conclusory," id., at
The later case of Fontaine v. United States, 411 U.S. 213, followed the same approach. The defendant there, having waived counsel, had also pleaded guilty to federal bank robbery charges. Before accepting the plea, the District Judge addressed the defendant personally, and the defendant stated in substance "that his plea was given voluntarily and knowingly, that he understood the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea, and that he was in fact guilty." Id., at 213-214. The defendant later filed a § 2255 motion to vacate his sentence on the ground that his plea had been coerced "by a combination of fear, coercive police tactics, and illness, including mental illness." 411 U. S., at 214. The motion included supporting factual allegations, as well as hospital records documenting some of the contentions.
Although noting that in collaterally attacking a plea of guilty a prisoner "may not ordinarily repudiate" statements made to the sentencing judge when the plea was entered, the Court observed that no procedural device for the taking of guilty pleas is so perfect in design and exercise as to warrant a per se rule rendering it "uniformly invulnerable to subsequent challenge." Id., at 215. Because the record of the plea hearing did not, in view of the allegations made, "`conclusively show that the prisoner [was] entitled to no relief,'" 28 U. S. C. § 2255, the Court ruled that the prisoner should be given an evidentiary hearing.
These cases do not in the least reduce the force of the original plea hearing. For the representations of the defendant,
What Machibroda and Fontaine indisputably teach, however, is that the barrier of the plea or sentencing proceeding record, although imposing, is not invariably insurmountable.
The allegations in this case were not in themselves so "vague [or] conclusory," Machibroda, 368 U. S., at 495, as to warrant dismissal for that reason alone.
Only recently has plea bargaining become a visible practice accepted as a legitimate component in the administration of criminal justice. For decades it was a sub rosa process shrouded in secrecy and deliberately concealed by participating defendants, defense lawyers, prosecutors, and even judges.
Allison was arraigned a mere 37 days after the Santobello decision was announced, under a North Carolina procedure that had not been modified in light of Santobello or earlier
The litany of form questions followed by the trial judge at arraignment nowhere indicated to Allison (or indeed to the lawyers involved) that plea bargaining was a legitimate practice that could be freely disclosed in open court. Neither lawyer was asked to disclose any agreement that had been reached, or sentencing recommendation that had been promised. The process thus did nothing to dispel a defendant's belief that any bargain struck must remain concealed— a belief here allegedly reinforced by the admonition of Allison's lawyer himself that disclosure could jeopardize the agreement. Rather than challenging respondent's counsel's contention at oral argument in this Court that "at that time in North Carolina plea bargains were never disclosed in response to such a question on such a form," Tr. of Oral Arg. 25, counsel for the petitioners conceded at oral argument that "[t]hat form was a minimum inquiry." Id., at 49.
Although "[l]ogically the general inquiry should elicit information about plea bargaining, . . . it seldom has in the
Had these commendable procedures been followed in the present case, Allison's petition would have been cast in a very different light. The careful explication of the legitimacy of plea bargaining, the questioning of both lawyers, and the verbatim record of their answers at the guilty-plea proceedings would almost surely have shown whether any bargain did
This is not to say that every set of allegations not on its face without merit entitles a habeas corpus petitioner to an evidentiary hearing. As in civil cases generally, there exists a procedure whose purpose is to test whether facially adequate allegations have sufficient basis in fact to warrant plenary presentation of evidence. That procedure is, of course, the motion for summary judgment. Upon remand the warden will be free to make such a motion, supporting it with whatever proof he wishes to attach.
Moreover, as is now expressly provided in the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases, the district judge (or a magistrate to whom the case may be referred)
In short, it may turn out upon remand that a full evidentiary hearing is not required. But Allison is "entitled to careful consideration and plenary processing of [his claim,] including full opportunity for presentation of the relevant
It is so ordered.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE concurs in the judgment.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring.
I join the opinion of the Court, and write briefly only to emphasize the importance of finality to a system of justice.
The case before us today is not necessarily an example of abuse of the system. It is an example, however, of how finality can be frustrated by failure to adhere to proper procedures at the trial court level. I do not prejudge the ultimate result in this case by saying that respondent's guilty plea may well have been made knowingly and voluntarily. The case is here, five years after respondent's conviction, and following review by the North Carolina courts, the United States District Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, primarily because the record before us leaves room for some doubt as to the reliability of the procedure followed with respect to the guilty plea. All that we have in the record, as a basis for testing the possible merit of respondent's petition, are answers to a printed form certified by the trial judge. We do not know whether anything was said by the judge, the prosecutor, or counsel for respondent, other than the questions read from the form and the monosyllabic answers by respondent. There was no transcript of the proceedings.
As the Court's opinion indicates, there is every reason to believe that if a procedure similar to that prescribed by the new North Carolina statute is followed, a contention such as that made by respondent will justify an evidentiary hearing "only in the most extraordinary circumstances." Ante, at 80 n. 19. If all participants in the process at the plea stage are mindful of the importance of adhering carefully to prescribed procedures and of preserving a full record thereof, the causes of justice and finality both will be served.
"TRANSCRIPT OF PLEA
"The Defendant, being first duly sworn, makes the following answers to the questions asked by the Presiding Judge:
"I have read or heard read all of the above questions and answers and understand them, and the answers shown are the ones I gave in open Court, and they are true and correct.
"The undersigned Presiding Judge hereby finds and adjudges:
"And after further examination by the Court, the Court ascertains, determines and adjudges, that the plea of guilty, by the defendant is freely, understandingly and voluntarily made, without undue influence, compulsion or duress, and without promise of leniency. It is, therefore, ORDERED that his plea of guilty be entered in the record, and that the Transcript of Plea and Adjudication be filed and recorded.
"This 24th day of January, 1972.
Unlike federal habeas corpus proceedings, a motion under § 2255 is ordinarily presented to the judge who presided at the original conviction and sentencing of the prisoner. In some cases, the judge's recollection of the events at issue may enable him summarily to dismiss a § 2255 motion, even though he could not similarly dispose of a habeas corpus petition challenging a state conviction but presenting identical allegations. Cf. Machibroda, 368 U. S., at 495 ("Nor were the circumstances alleged of a kind that the District Judge could completely resolve by drawing upon his own personal knowledge or recollection"). To this extent, the standard may be administered in a somewhat different fashion.
"(a) Leave of court required. A party shall be entitled to invoke the processes of discovery available under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if, and to the extent that, the judge in the exercise of his discretion and for good cause shown grants leave to do so, but not otherwise. If necessary for effective utilization of discovery procedures, counsel shall be appointed by the judge for a petitioner who qualifies for the appointment of counsel under 18 U. S. C. § 3006A (g).
"(b) Requests for discovery. Requests for discovery shall be accompanied by a statement of the questions, interrogatories, or requests for admission and a list of the documents, if any, sought to be produced.
"(c) Expenses. If the respondent is granted leave to take the deposition of the petitioner or any other person the judge may as a condition of taking it direct that the respondent pay the expenses of travel and subsistence and fees of counsel for the petitioner to attend the taking of the deposition."
"(a) Direction for Expansion. If the petition is not dismissed summarily the judge may direct that the record be expanded by the parties by the inclusion of additional materials relevant to the determination of the merits of the petition.
"(b) Materials to be added. The expanded record may include, without limitation, letters predating the filing of the petition in the district court, documents, exhibits, and answers under oath, if so directed, to written interrogatories propounded by the judge. Affidavits may be submitted and considered as a part of the record.
"(c) Submission to opposing party. In any case in which an expanded record is directed, copies of the letters, documents, exhibits, and affidavits proposed to be included shall be submitted to the party against whom they are to be offered, and he shall be afforded an opportunity to admit or deny their correctness."
"Both the individual criminal defendant and society have an interest in insuring that there will at some point be the certainty that comes with an end to litigation, and that attention will ultimately be focused not on whether a conviction was free from error but rather on whether the prisoner can be restored to a useful place in the community." Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1963) (dissenting opinion).
See also Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 256-266 (1973) (POWELL, J., concurring).