Bracy v. Gramley - Oral Argument - April 14, 1997

Bracy v. Gramley

Media for Bracy v. Gramley

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 09, 1997 in Bracy v. Gramley

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 14, 1997 in Bracy v. Gramley

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 96-6133, William Bracy v. Richard B. Gramley.

Mr. Levy.

Gilbert H. Levy:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

In support of our discovery request in the district court, we presented evidence that former Judge Thomas Maloney systematically disregarded his oath of office in favor of his self-interest.

He accepted bribes to fix murder cases.

He had a prior history before he ascended to the bench as an attorney who fixed cases, and who had ties to organized crime.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, would your case be any weaker if he had never accepted... never given bribes when he was an attorney and simply had accepted them when he was a judge?

Gilbert H. Levy:

It would not be any weaker, Mr. Chief Justice.

William H. Rehnquist:

Then why do you mention the attorney business?

Gilbert H. Levy:

It seems to me, Mr. Chief Justice, that it's relative to the character of the person who is assumed to regard his oath and office and be fair in my client's case, a factor, I think, that the district court would want to take into consideration in determining whether or not there was a due process violation.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well--

--What standard are you arguing for here as a matter of constitutional law?

Do you think it's necessary to show that the... Judge Maloney made some request, either by inference or expressly, in this case, or do you think it's only necessary to show that he made it in other cases?

Gilbert H. Levy:

I think the standard, Mr. Chief Justice, as this Court indicated in Murchison, is probability of unfairness in this case.

We believe that the presentation that we made to the district court was sufficient to demonstrate that, but if this Court decides that that's not sufficient, or a district... or a court decides that's not sufficient, we're certainly in a position to go forward and demonstrate more.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, when you say probability of unfairness, you're saying that if you can show in some other cases that he asked for a bribe, or that perhaps he suggested if you didn't give him a bribe he would be very tough on you, that would be enough, without showing anything in this particular case?

You can answer that yes or no, I think.

Gilbert H. Levy:

No, Your Honor, if I may explain, please.

Yes, certainly.

Gilbert H. Levy:

I think all of this Court's analysis of this issue has always looked to the biasing influence itself, and whether it was sufficiently strong.

If the biasing influence, which in this case was corruption, has been deemed to be sufficiently severe, this Court has always presumed prejudice and has not looked to the question of whether or not the judge in a particular case was actually biased towards the particular defendant.

However, if actual bias were the standard, which we maintain it isn't, we believe that we may be able to show that if we're given access to the evidence.

William H. Rehnquist:

You... I suppose you would show that by something said to one of your client's lawyers by the judge during his trial.

I would think you'd be able to get that now.

Gilbert H. Levy:

We may... we think that we could show that for what... for example as to what Judge Maloney may have said to the accomplices, who were Government witnesses, at the time, who were involved in the bribe-taking process at the same time that my client's case was tried.

We may be able to explore the possibility that there was a corrupt relationship between Judge Maloney and the person that he appointed to be my client's attorney.

We believe that we may be able to show examples of instances where Judge Maloney was corrupt in other cases in which he didn't receive bribes.

We believe that, as the Government sensing memorandum in the Maloney case indicated, we believe that we may be able to show a lot of corruption going on right at the same time as Mr. Bracy's trial, so that Judge Maloney would have had to have leaned in favor of the State just to be generally impartial.

Antonin Scalia:

Mr. Levy, I'm not sure what the scope of your concession was.

Did you, in response to the Chief Justice, acknowledge that before you can proceed with further discovery you must establish a probability of unfairness?