Case v. Nebraska

LOCATION: Louisiana General Assembly

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 381 US 336 (1965)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1965
DECIDED: May 24, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Case v. Nebraska

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1965 in Case v. Nebraska

Earl Warren:

Number 843, Paul V. Case, Petitioner, versus Nebraska.

Mr. Meador.

Daniel J. Meador:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is a state post-conviction proceeding here on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Nebraska.

The state court has refused to hear the petitioner's claim that he is incarcerated in violation of his constitutional rights to counsel.

The merits of the right to counsel claim were not before the Court in this case.

The question which is presented, however, is one of pressing current importance in the administration of state criminal justice.

And that question is whether this Court should require a state to comply with its constitutional duty so-called a hearing to the petitioner.

The facts are quite brief.

The petitioner was arrested one night in April of 1963 while he was walking along the streets in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He was taken to the jail and as he puts it he was booked on an open charge.

He was hailed incommunicado for four days the a jail, and incidentally, I might say, all the facts here come from the petition of habeas corpus filed in this state trial court, the allegations of which are uncontradicted at this point.

He had said he was held incommunicado for four days, on the fourth day in information was filed against him in the trial court charging him with burglary, which is a felony on Nebraska law carrying a sentence of 10 years in the penitentiary.

On the same day the information was filed, the petitioner was taken before the prosecuting attorney where he was threatened with prosecution under the habitual criminal law unless he would agree to waive a preliminary hearing, agree to waive his right to counsel, and agree to plead guilty.

The Nebraska Habitual Criminal Law carries a penalty from 10 to 20 years in the penitentiary for two prior convictions, a penalty in addition to the sentences that would be imposed for the principal offense.

As a result of this prosecutorial coercion, the petitioner did waive a preliminary hearing.

He was taken before the Court the same day, four days after he had been arrested, at which time still as a result of the coercion, he did waive counsel and plead guilty.

The trial judge found him guilty of burglary and thereafter sentenced him to five years in the penitentiary.

At no time from arrest through the sentencing did the petitioner have the assistance of counsel.

Apparently, no appeal was taken, and a few months later in September 1963, the present proceeding was initiated in the same court which had convicted and sentenced the petitioner.

The trial court dismissed the petition, the petition is now before the Court here in this case, the petition alleging the facts which I have summarized, dismissed this petition without any response from the State and without holding any hearing.

The petitioner thereupon appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska, and that Court in its opinion in effect acknowledged that the petitioner's allegations showed the violation of the Constitution which required an evidentiary hearing.

And yet the Court affirmed the dismissal on the ground that this was a habeas corpus petition and that under Nebraska law, habeas corpus will reach only jurisdictional defects in the conviction and that this claim of denial of counsel is not of that sort.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Are there any suggesting that there might be some other state post-conviction remedy to which the matter devoted?

Daniel J. Meador:

No sir, the opinion is completely silent about any other possible remedy at all.

It addresses itself solely to habeas corpus.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, I suppose we should consider this on the premise of -- that is the only state post-conviction?

Daniel J. Meador:

No sir, we need not to consider it now because the new statute which has just been enacted in Nebraska, which does appear to provide a post-conviction procedure which I would like to discuss in just a moment in somewhat greater length.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Before getting at it.

Before this statute, is there anything like coram nobis, or any other?