Conway v. California Adult Authority

RESPONDENT: California Adult Authority
LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 396 US 107 (1969)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1969
DECIDED: Dec 08, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Conway v. California Adult Authority

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 12, 1969 in Conway v. California Adult Authority

Warren E. Burger:

Number 40, Conway against California Adult Authority.

Mr. Ralston you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Charles Stephen Ralston:

Thank you Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is on the writ of certiorari to review the denial by the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals the Ninth Circuit of an application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal from the denial petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The Federal District Court had denied the petition on the merits without requiring either a response from the respondents here and without a hearing.

It was denied on the grounds of the petition failed to present a federal constitutional question and the certificates of probable cause were denied by both courts on the same ground.

Our petitioner in this case, James Conway, was convicted in California in 1952 on two counts of a robbery in the first degree.

He -- since that time and his presently incarcerated by the State of California under the provisions of the California indeterminate sentence law and it is this law and the petitioners challenges to them that our issue in this case not only the law itself but the manner in which it has been administered by the California Adult Authority or the respondent in this case.

Petitioner claims on a numbered basis that the law in manner of which it is administered violates of Fourteenth Amendment guarantees against the denial of due process.

Before discussing petitioner's contentions themselves, I'd like briefly to describe the functioning of the Adult Authority and the California in determining Sentencing Law in relation to the particular facts of petitioner's case as he is alleged in this petition for writ of habeas corpus.

I stated before petitioner was convicted in 1952 on two counts of a robbery in the first degree.

Following his conviction, petitioner was sentenced to state prison and in doing this the Court neither gave him a suspended sentence or gave him probation.

Parenthetically, it is not evident at all from the record in this case on what basis probation or suspended sentence was denied.

It might have been under the provisions of Section 1203 of the California Penal Code that at that time the Superior Court Judge was prohibited from granting probation.

That section particularly as it existed in 1952 contain the a prohibition against probation in the certain kinds of cases among them arm robbery for a deadly weapon was used.

In any of that, since no probation or suspended sentence was given, the judges action is governed by California Penal Code Section 1168.

That Section, specifically prohibits the judge from specifying the term or duration of sentence that requires him to merely sentenced the defendant to the term prescribed by law in state prison.

For the crime of robbery in the first degree, the law prescribes a five-year minimum term but establishes no maximum.

Section 671 of the Penal Code states that where there is no maximum set by the specific statute but only a minimum term of years, then punishment shall be imprisonment during natural life subject to the provisions of part three of the penal code and part three is that section which deals with the powers in the duties of the California Adult Authority.

Specifically, Section 3020 of the Penal Code which states that for all persons sentenced under the provisions of Section 1168.

The California Adult Authority may determine and re-determine what length of time the person shall be imprison.

Yet, another section the Penal Code, Section 5077 delineates the two basic powers of the Adult Authority, the granting of the revocation of parole which is not involve in this case and the fixing of sentences which is the issue here.

Our petitioner following his sentence by the Court, following his imprisonment, made the number of appearances before the Adult Authority.

Finally, in 1959 after he's been imprisoned for some seven years, approximately, the Adult Authority acted pursuant to such in 3020 and fixed petitioners terms at two-five years sentences to be served consecutively.

I just point out that the Superior Court Judge had specified that the sentences were to be served consecutively.

Again however, no term or whatsoever was that by the Superior Court Judge.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Ralston is it -- if you know is it usual for the Adult Authority to come in at a point and fix the sentence in the way it was done here, generally?

Charles Stephen Ralston:

You mean in -- Well, under the statute, it has the duty to do so.

Warren E. Burger:

Yes, I understand they have the power and the duty, is there any pattern that is reflected as to when that power is exercised in --