Hilton v. Braunskill

RESPONDENT: Braunskill
LOCATION: Arizona State Prison

DOCKET NO.: 86-108
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 481 US 770 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1987
DECIDED: May 26, 1987

John G. Holl - on behalf of Petitioners
Mark H. Friedman - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Hilton v. Braunskill

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1987 in Hilton v. Braunskill

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Holl, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

John G. Holl:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court--

This case is here on a writ of certiorari to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and it involves a purely legal issue of the interpretation of Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 23(c), specifically the permissible factors that federal courts can take into account in determining whether or not to release a successful habeas petitioner pending an appeal by the state.

Relying almost exclusively on the decision of the Third Circuit in Carter against Rafferty, the Third Circuit has held and the district court below have held that they will only take into account the possibility of flight in making this decision.

The state of New Jersey, Petitioner herein, is arguing that there are additional factors that are properly considered under 23(c), including the chances of success on appeal by the state as a factor that the court should take into account, as well as the dangerousness of the Petitioner.

Initially, I would note with respect to the factor of likelihood of success on appeal, that issue I don't think was considered by the Carter court.

The Carter court concentrated exclusively on dangerousness.

William H. Rehnquist:

You mean the Carter court did not explicitly reject--

John G. Holl:


William H. Rehnquist:

--likelihood of success on appeal?

John G. Holl:

That's correct.

And I think the rationale of the Carter decision, which is something that we take issue with but I'll get into later, even if you apply the rationale of the Carter decision, which is the federal courts can only take into account what it perceives as a federal interest, if you apply that rationale you would see that the chances of state success on appeal is also a federal interest.

We have the state as a party in a federal action.

The Respondent is a party in a federal action.

There is an appeal to a federal court.

So the outcome of that appeal is certainly an issue which the federal courts have an interest in, and should be an appropriate factor under 23(c) even if you accept the Carter analysis--

However, we don't think that the Carter court interpreted 23(c) properly.

We think that there are a number of reasons to reject the narrow interpretation that the Carter court adopted here.

The first one is, the Carter court held that the only interest, the only factor, is a probability of flight.

We think that the language of the rule, which is extremely broad and which says that a petitioner is presumed to be released... it doesn't specifically use the word of presumption of release, but the state would concede that the rule does contain a presumption of release.

The presumption of release is there when a petitioner is successful in district court, but it can be overcome.

He shall be released unless a court shall order otherwise.

In those instances... that's kind of broad language right there.

It's extremely broad language, and we don't think there's any reason to believe that it narrowly confines the federal courts to the probability of flight.

Byron R. White:

You're here arguing for the state, I take it.

John G. Holl:

That's correct, Justice White.

Byron R. White:

And you want to... you've convicted a person and you don't want him at large until there is some final ruling on the habeas corpus.

John G. Holl:

Yes, that's correct, Justice White.

Byron R. White:

Does New Jersey have a post-conviction relief operation?

John G. Holl:

Yes, we do.