Ludwig v. Massachusetts

LOCATION:Vermillion Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 75-377
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

CITATION: 427 US 618 (1976)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1976

John J. Irwin, Jr. – for appellee
Robert W. Hagopian – for appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Ludwig v. Massachusetts

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 28, 1976 in Ludwig v. Massachusetts

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 30, 1976 in Ludwig v. Massachusetts

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 75-377, Ludwig against Massachusetts will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us from the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a two-tier court system.

A person accused of certain crimes is tried in the first instance in the lower tier where there is no trial by jury, and if convicted he may appeal to the second tier and if his conviction followed a plea of not guilty, he is entitled to a trial de novo by jury in the second tier.

Mr. Ludwig pleaded not guilty to a charge of negligent operation of an automobile and after his motion for a jury trial was denied, he was convicted by a judge in the first-tier court.

He then appealed for the second tier.

There he moved to dismiss on the ground that he had been deprived of his right to a speedy jury trial in the first instance and on the further ground that he was being subjected to double jeopardy. His motions both were denied and he then waived the jury trial and was again convicted in the second tier.

The Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth affirmed, holding that the denial of his request to be tried by a jury in the lower tier did not violate Ludwig’s constitutional right to a speedy trial or to a trial by jury and that the Massachusetts procedure did not place him twice in jeopardy.

We hold that the Massachusetts two tier system does not deprive an accused of his Fourteenth Amendment right to a jury trial, but instead absolutely guarantees trial by jury to persons accused of serious crimes and that the manner specified for exercising this right is fair and not unduly burdensome.

The system provides a jury trial that protects an accused from any prosecutorial or judicial misconduct.

The fact that an accused may undertake to incur the cost of an additional trial does not unconstitutionally burden the right to a jury trial.

We further hold that the procedure does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth.

According may the judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is affirmed.

Mr. Justice Powell, although joining the opinion of the Court has filed a separate concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by Justices Brennan and Stewart and Marshall.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Blackmun.