JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
A divided Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that respondent's state-court murder conviction was constitutionally invalid. Its holding has two bases: (1) the pretrial photographic identification procedure employed by state police was "so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable in-court misidentification of the [respondent]"; and (2) the admission of the in-court identification "constituted error of constitutional dimension." 611 F.2d 754, 755 (1979). The question before us is whether the Court of Appeals properly analyzed respondent's challenge to his state-court murder conviction, given the limited nature of the review provided federal courts by 28 U. S. C. § 2254.
In 1973, respondent was convicted in the Superior Court of Kern County, Cal., of the first-degree murder of one of his fellow inmates at a California correctional institution. At trial, three witnesses testified that they had witnessed all or part of the attack on the inmate and identified respondent as participating in the murder. Respondent offered as an alibi three other witnesses who testified that respondent was in bed at the time the stabbing occurred. At no point did respondent object to his in-court identification by the State's three eyewitnesses.
On direct appeal to the California Court of Appeal, respondent claimed for the first time that the pretrial photographic identification employed by the state police violated
Respondent did not seek direct review of the California Court of Appeal's decision with the California Supreme Court. He did, however, later raise the pretrial identification issue in state habeas corpus proceedings. The California Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court all denied relief.
On December 9, 1977, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 2254 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and again raised the pretrial identification issue. On May 23, 1978, the District Court denied the petition and respondent
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The court, employing the same standard used by the California state courts, concluded "the photographic identification was so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification." 611 F. 2d, at 759. This conclusion was based, inter alia, on the court's finding that (1) the circumstances surrounding the witnesses' observation of the crime were such that there was a grave likelihood of misidentification; (2) the witnesses had failed to give sufficiently detailed descriptions of the assailant; and (3) considerable pressure from both prison officials and prison factions had been brought to bear on the witnesses. Id., at 758-759.
The findings made by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are considerably at odds with the findings made by the California Court of Appeal. Both courts made their findings after reviewing the state-court trial record and neither court has indicated that this record is not a completely adequate record upon which to base such findings.
If this were simply a run-of-the-mine case in which an appellate court had reached an opposite conclusion from a trial court in a unitary judicial system, there would be little reason for invocation of this Court's discretionary jurisdiction to make a third set of findings. But unfortunately for the smooth functioning of our federal system, which consists of 50 state judicial systems and one national judicial system, this is not such a run-of-the-mine case. Instead, this case presents important questions regarding the role to be played by the federal courts in the exercise of the habeas corpus jurisdiction conferred upon them by 28 U. S. C. § 2254.
It has long been established, as to those constitutional issues which may properly be raised under § 2254, that even a single
The petitioner asserts that in reaching its decision the majority of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed to observe certain limitations on its authority specifically set forth in 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (d). Section 2254 (d) provides:
It is obvious from a literal reading of the above that § 2254 (d) is applicable to the present situation although it has been contended that this should not be the case where a state appellate court, as opposed to a trial court, makes the
Section 2254 (d) applies to cases in which a state court of competent jurisdiction has made "a determination after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue." It makes no distinction between the factual determinations of a state trial court and those of a state appellate court. Nor does it specify any procedural requirements that must be satisfied for there to be a "hearing on the merits of a factual issue," other than that the habeas applicant and the State or its agent be parties to the state proceeding and that the state-court determination be evidenced by "a written finding, written
Given the applicability of § 2254 (d) to the present case, it is apparent that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit did not apply the "presumption of correctness" which is mandated by the statute to the factual determinations made by the California state courts. Indeed, the court did not even refer in its opinion to § 2254 (d).
Undoubtedly, a court need not elaborate or give reasons for rejecting claims which it regards as frivolous or totally without merit. This, however, was not the situation presented here. To the contrary, the Court of Appeals reached a conclusion which was in conflict with the conclusion reached by every other state and federal judge after reviewing the
Obviously, if the Court of Appeals in this case or any other court of appeals had simply inserted a boilerplate paragraph in its opinion that it had considered the state record as a whole and concluded that the state appellate court's factual determinations were not fairly supported by the record, this objection to the judgment of the Court of Appeals could not as easily be made. Just as obviously, this would be a frustration of the intent of Congress in enacting § 2254 (d). Reference can be made to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which requires a United States district court following a bench trial to "find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon . . . ." It is a matter of common knowledge that on some occasions a district judge will simply take findings of fact and conclusions of law prepared by the party whom the judge has indicated at the close of trial shall prevail and without alteration adopt them as his own. However, a requirement such as is imposed by Rule 52 undoubtedly makes a judge more aware that it is his own imprimatur that is placed on the findings of fact and conclusions of law, whoever may prepare them. When Congress provided in § 2254 (d) that a habeas court could not dispense with the "presumption of correctness" embodied therein unless it concluded that the factual determinations were not supported by the record, it contemplated at least some reasoned written references to § 2254 (d) and the state-court findings. State judges as well as federal judges swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and there is no reason to think that because of their frequent differences of opinions as to how that document should be interpreted, all are not doing their mortal best to discharge their oath of office.
When it enacted the 1966 amendment to 28 U. S. C. § 2254, Congress specified that in the absence of the previously enumerated factors one through eight, the burden shall rest on the habeas petitioner, whose case by that time had run the entire gamut of a state judicial system, to establish "by convincing evidence that the factual determination of the State court was erroneous." 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (d). Thus, Congress meant to insure that a state finding not be overturned merely on the basis of the usual "preponderance of the evidence" standard in such a situation. In order to ensure that this mandate of Congress is enforced, we now hold that a habeas court should include in its opinion granting the writ the reasoning which led it to conclude that any of the first seven factors were present, or the reasoning which led it to conclude that the state finding was "not fairly supported by the record." Such a statement tying the generalities of § 2254 (d) to the particular facts of the case at hand will not, we think, unduly burden federal habeas courts even though it will prevent the use of the "boilerplate" language to which we
Having said this, we are not to be understood as agreeing or disagreeing with the majority of the Court of Appeals on the merits of the issue of impermissibly suggestive identification procedures. Both the California courts and the federal courts relied on the basic Simmons case for their legal analysis. Applying the same test, the majority of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reached a different determination than had all the other courts which considered the issue. Assuredly this is not the first nor the last time that such a result will occur. We do think, however, that Congress was intent on some sort of written explanation of the § 2254 (d) factors when such a result does occur. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is accordingly vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the result. He would vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and merely remand the case to that court for reconsideration in light of 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (d).
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL and JUSTICE STEVENS join, dissenting.
The Court holds today that an order of a federal habeas court requiring release or retrial of a state prisoner because of constitutional violations at his trial must be vacated if the
Respondent was convicted of first-degree murder of another prisoner, largely on the strength of identification testimony by three fellow inmates at a California penitentiary. Two of these witnesses had been shown photo identification arrays on three occasions, under circumstances that led the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to conclude that it was "obvious that there was a grave likelihood of irreparable misidentification." 611 F.2d 754, 758 (1979). Respondent did not object at trial to admission of this identification testimony. On appeal to the California Court of Appeal, respondent argued that the use of this identification evidence violated his due process rights as defined in Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377 (1968). The court considered this claim on the merits, and rejected it.
Respondent did not seek review in the California Supreme Court. Instead, he raised the pretrial identification issue in state habeas corpus proceedings, where his petitions were denied without opinion. Finally, he filed a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U. S. C. § 2254 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, again raising the pretrial identification issue. In his return in opposition to respondent's petition for habeas corpus, petitioner argued that the District Court was precluded from re-examining the issue by virtue of § 2254 (d), which accords a presumption of correctness to state-court factual findings, subject to certain exceptions not relevant here.
I cannot join my Brethren in concluding that the Court of Appeals' decision must be vacated for its failure to discuss an issue not timely raised by petitioner. This Court today holds that a federal habeas court may not grant a petition for a writ without stating on the record why it was not bound by § 2254 (d) to defer to the state-court judgment. Ante, at 551. It therefore vacates the judgment of the Court of Appeals in this case, even though petitioner failed to raise the § 2254 (d) argument in his briefs before that court. The Court admits that "a court need not elaborate or give reasons for rejecting claims which it regards as frivolous or totally without merit." Ante, at 548. To that I would add that, except in exceptional circumstances, a court need not search the universe of legal argument and discuss every contention that might have been—but was not—made by the losing party. The burden on the dockets of the federal courts is severe enough already, without requiring the courts to raise, research, and explain an issue not deemed important enough by the parties to justify mention in their briefs.
Moreover, I cannot agree that today's holding will "ensure that this mandate of Congress [§ 2254 (d)] is enforced," ante, at 551; rather, it is more likely to be seen as an invitation to lower federal courts to "inser[t] a boilerplate paragraph" in their opinions acknowledging their awareness of § 2254 (d).
The Court's disposition of the instant case is all the more perplexing because § 2254 (d) plainly constitutes no bar to the Court of Appeals' holding that the pretrial identification procedure employed by the police violated respondent's due process rights. Section 2254 (d) requires a federal habeas court to defer to "a determination after a hearing on the merits of a factual issue, made by a State court . . . ." 28 U. S. C. § 2254 (d) (emphasis supplied). The factual issues to which § 2254 (d) applies are "basic, primary, or historical facts: facts `in the sense of a recital of external events and the credibility of their narrators. . . .'" Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 342 (1980) (quoting Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 309, n. 6 (1963)). Section 2254 (d) does not bar a federal court from reviewing "a mixed determination of law and fact that requires the application of legal principles to the historical facts of this case." 446 U. S., at 342; see Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387, 403-404 (1977).
The treatment of the pretrial identification issue by the California court was brief and contained little in the way of formal factual findings. Its relevant findings were that "the witnesses had an adequate opportunity to view the crime"; that "there is no showing of influence by the investigating officers"; and that the witnesses' "descriptions are accurate." App. to Pet. for Cert. C-4 to C-5. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explicitly agreed that the witnesses had "an opportunity . . . to observe the perpetrators of the crime," 611 F. 2d, at 758, but disagreed with the California court's legal conclusion that the opportunity for observation was constitutionally adequate, because of the "diversion of the witnesses' attention at the time the crime was committed." Id., at 759. Similarly, the Court of Appeals' description of the facts concerning the photographic lineup procedure differs in no significant detail from that offered by the California court. Compare id., at 756, with App. to Pet. for Cert. C-3 to C-4. The California court, however, concluded that "[t]he circumstances thus indicate the inherent fairness of the procedure," id., at C-5, while the Court of Appeals reached the opposite legal conclusion. The Court of Appeals, like the California court, did not dispute the accuracy of the witnesses' identifications, but only their degree of detail. 611 F. 2d, at 758. Finally the Court of Appeals considered whether using a photo array procedure rather than a lineup was necessary, a consideration not deemed relevant by the California court. Id., at 757.
Plainly, the disagreement between the courts is over the constitutional significance of the facts of the case, and not
Indeed, this Court has held, in a case similar on its facts to this one, that a dispute over allegedly suggestive pretrial identification procedures is "not so much over the elemental facts as over the constitutional significance to be attached to them." Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 193, n. 3 (1972). Cf. Cuyler v. Sullivan, supra, at 342 (conclusion that lawyers undertook multiple representation not a "factual" determination within the meaning of § 2254 (d)); Brewer v. Williams, supra, at 395-397, 402-404 (conclusion that defendant waived his right to counsel not a "factual" determination within the meaning of § 2254 (d)).
In Biggers, the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, applying the "totality of the circumstances" test of Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377 (1968), both concluded that pretrial identification procedures had violated a state prisoner's due process rights. This Court reversed, over a dissent claiming that the Court was violating its "long-established practice not to reverse findings of fact concurred in by two lower courts unless shown to be clearly erroneous." Neil v. Biggers, supra, at 202 (BRENNAN, J., joined by Douglas and STEWART, JJ., dissenting).
On the merits, petitioner contends that the "Ninth Circuit's application of an erroneous standard led it to an erroneous result and that application of the proper standard must lead to a conclusion that [respondent] was not denied due process by reason of the admission of identification evidence at his trial." Brief for Petitioner 49 (emphasis supplied); see also id., at 14.
The Court does not challenge the correctness of the Court of Appeals' conclusion that the pretrial identification procedure employed by the state police in this case was "so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification." 611 F. 2d, at 759. It is therefore not necessary to review the portions of the record and the precedents of this Court that support the conclusion of the Court of Appeals. Nevertheless, today's decision denies respondent the relief to which that court found that he is entitled. Since petitioner did not raise the § 2254 (d) issue in the Court of Appeals, and since § 2254 (d) is plainly inapplicable to the mixed question of law and fact at issue in this case, I can see no justice in this result. I therefore respectfully dissent.