Hardy v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Apartment

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 375 US 277 (1964)
ARGUED: Nov 21, 1963
DECIDED: Jan 06, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Hardy v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 21, 1963 in Hardy v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 112, Zebedee Hardy, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Ratner.

Mozart G. Ratner:

May it please the Court, Mr. Chief Justice.

Here on a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals from District of Columbia, this case presents the question whether an indigent convict confronted with the District Court finding that his appeal or would be appeal is not taken in good faith is entitled to a complete stenographic transcript to unable his court appointed counsel to search for hidden error.

For us, it is both the beginning and the end of the argument that in the federal system, in the first place under rule 52 (b) hidden error is ground for reversal.

And in the second place that a solvent defendant can provide his counsel a complete stenographic transcript to search.

That brings denial of a complete transcript to an indigent squarely within Douglas against California, "Where the errors are hidden, the indigent has only the right to a meaningless ritual, while the rich man has a meaningful appeal.”

The Governments says, “So what?”

The gap is only a product of the indigent's poverty and Government is not required to equalize economic condition.

But when the consequence of poverty is inability to defend a criminal conviction, overcoming the disability is not to equalize economic condition.

It is to equalize the criminal justice under law.

If Government is under no obligation to overcome the disabilities of poverty when it under takes a criminal prosecution or would borrow criminal appeal, why should it have to supply an indigent with counsel or with any record at all?

Government is constitutionally required to do these things because in administering criminal justice, it must overcome disabilities resulting from poverty just as much as it practically can.

In Norvell versus Illinois, this Court held that the State was not obliged to supply a transcript because through no fault of the State, the transcript was simply unavailable.

The inescapable implication is that the transcript had been available.

The State would have been compelled to supply it.

What otherwise could we possibly mean when we claim to provide in our system equal justice under law for the rich and for the poor.

To deny a poor man the appellant review which is available to a convict with money is to mock the very idea of equality, nothing could be more damaging to democracy at home or abroad than the notion that to us, the majestic equality of which the law speaks means only that the rich and the poor alike have no right to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.

Mr. Ratner, I suggest that (Inaudible) the fact of this case?

Mozart G. Ratner:

The fact of this case Your Honor, that this poor man was denied a stenographic transcript in which his counsel could search for hidden error which a poor convict identically situated could provide to his counsel to search for error in order to defend against the charge of frivolity.

I submit that the right to take the appeal depends upon the right to search for the hidden error in a complete transcript.

And if that is withheld from the indigent conflict, he is being deprived of equal justice under law.

For whatever right of appeal from a criminal conviction, the lower courts in practice to a rich man, it must in practice and able to poor man equally to enjoy and to deny --


Mozart G. Ratner:

I'm sorry Your Honor, I didn't hear you!

If you have gotten any case and if you (Inaudible)

Mozart G. Ratner:

Your Honor this Court is held that to deny a poor man the right to appeal for one of a filling fee, is to deny an equal justice under law.

I said that to deny poor man appeal for warrant of the opportunity to search the transcript -- the trial of which he was convicted is no different to deny him the right to appeal for one of a filling fee because if he had the money to buy the transcript, if he could buy the transcript, he might be find the error and if the error is there and he can't find it, if he had it and could appeal if he found it, you're denying him the equal right to appeal.

The Court has also said (Inaudible) that the right to make reasonable steps to protect himself against those appeal of what -- there was a contest to this case for equal protection (Inaudible).

Mozart G. Ratner:

Well, let me say at the onset and I'll return to that in a couple of minutes in more detail, but this dispose it right now.