Gardner v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Souther District Court of Georgia

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 393 US 367 (1969)
ARGUED: Nov 20, 1968
DECIDED: Jan 20, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Gardner v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 20, 1968 in Gardner v. California

Earl Warren:

Number 73, Robert Newton Gardner, Jr., Petitioner versus California.

Mr. Rickershauser?

Charles E. Rickershauser, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, May it please the court.

This is a case involving the right of an indigent California prisoner to a free transcript of his hearing out of petition for habeas corpus in the California Superior Court.

That petitioner alleged insufficient access to legal materials and to the courts.

The issue in this case is whether under the facts of the case, petitioner can obtain an adequate appellate review consistent with due process and equal protection under the California habeas corpus procedures where a non-indigent prisoner could have purchased this transcript.

But the appellate procedures in California relating to habeas corpus cases are not conditioned as a matter of law on the availability of that transcript.

Following the hearing, the Superior Court denied the petitioners petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Petitioner then filed a written motion for a free transcript alleging his lack of funds, his need for the transcript to prove his case claims in the California Supreme Court and to assist him in the preparation of his case.

Petitioner did not then and does not now complain about the hearing, but instead contends the evidence will prove his habeas corpus contentions.

Petitioner in his motion raised the federal questions presented here citing authorities.

The Superior Court denied that motion by written order stating among other things that none of the proceedings in that court would be of concern to the California Appellate Courts.

Petitioner sought review of that denial of his motion for a free transcript by petitioning for writ of certiorari in the California Court of Appeal, which was denied.

Petitioner then sought a hearing in the California Supreme Court which was denied. Both of those denials were without opinion.

Petitioner then petitioned this court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted after a response was filed by the State of California upon request.

This court then appointed counsel, the only time the petitioner has been represented in these proceedings by counsel except at the hearing on his petition for the writ of habeas corpus in the California Superior Court.

It is a transcript of that hearing for the purpose of presenting his contentions for habeas corpus to the California Appellate Courts, this Court and if necessary the lower federal courts that petitioner is here seeking.

It seems clear under various decisions of this Court most recent prominent one of which is Long versus District Court 385 U.S. 192 that if the Californian habeas corpus procedure was a traditional appellate procedure, equal protection would require that this transcript be furnished to petitioner so that he could have the same means of pursuing his remedies as man with means to purchase the transcript.

The difference if any, in this case is that habeas corpus in California is termed as a theoretical matter to be an original writ procedure in each of the court's of California and theoretically --

Potter Stewart:

You say that is theoretical, that is fact; isn't it; in other words and it works.

It may work to the benefit of the applicant because if this is not an appeal but rather an original new application for habeas corpus in the second court then the applicant is free to bring in additional material, which he would not normally be free to do, if this were simply a review of the District Court action.

Charles E. Rickershauser, Jr.:

That is true Mr. Justice Stewart but in practice it seems to me we have to look at the California procedure and see how it usually works and I think we will see that is very much like an appellate procedure in the usual case and of course even if it isn't I think the petitioner has shown his need for that transcript to prepare for the appellate court review, but if I might I'd like to point out that even though the petitioner is theoretically able to proceed and either the Superior Court or the Appellate Courts of California in an original proceedings, as a general matter and the usual practice as established in the State's brief here as referred to, is that the Appellate Courts will require him to start in the trial court.

So the next aspect --

Potter Stewart:

That's not unlike the Federal system I expect.

Charles E. Rickershauser, Jr.:

That's right.

Potter Stewart:

Where I think I'm right in saying that under the statute an original writ of habeas corpus could be brought either to Federal District Court or before a Circuit Judge or the whole Court of Appeals or before any Justice or before this whole Court, but the practice is that it's authorized by the statute of Federal system to transfer any such applications filed in the particular Circuit Judges or Supreme Court Justices to transfer it to the District Court, is that more or less the California practice?

Charles E. Rickershauser, Jr.:

I believe the more common practice is to deny the application for habeas corpus, it's referred to a footnote in the State's brief on the ground that he should proceed in the trial court, absent some unusual circumstances of the trial court would not act.

Potter Stewart:

Of course in the Federal system, there is provision for appeals from denials of habeas corpus and as I understand it in California there's no appeal from a denial.

Charles E. Rickershauser, Jr.:

There is an appeal by the State if the petition is granted.

Potter Stewart:

No, I'm not appealed for the denial asset of habeas corpus is that correct?