McGinnis v. Royster

LOCATION: United States Department of Agriculture

DOCKET NO.: 71-718
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 410 US 263 (1973)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1972
DECIDED: Feb 21, 1973

G. Jeffery Sorge - for appellees, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court
Jeffrey Sorge -
Michael Colodner - for appellants

Facts of the case


Media for McGinnis v. Royster

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1972 in McGinnis v. Royster

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Colodner.

Michael Colodner:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The issue in this case is what is the role of federal courts in examining state statutes which relate to the internal and prison administration and what is the scope of this role within the Equal Protection Clause.

Now, the appellees in this case are inmates of state prisons.

Each of them was arrested and spent time in the county jail prior to trial because they could not post bail.

The appellee, Mr. Royster had been indicted for burglary and had spent 11 months in jail in 1965 to 1966.

Mr. Rutherford had been indicted and convicted of robbery in the first degree.

He had spent eight months in jail in 1966.

Under provisions Section 230(3) of the Correction Law, he received no credit for a good behavior for this period of pre-trial incarceration.

He did receive credit for the amount of time on his full sentence that he spent there but he was not allowed to earn good behavior time.

Warren E. Burger:

How does the state institution go about evaluating the good behavior of a man who is not in their custody?

Michael Colodner:

There is no way for the state to evaluate the good behavior of a man was is not in their custody.

Warren E. Burger:

But you want credit for it even though they have no way of evaluating it, isn’t that the essence of this case?

Michael Colodner:

The essence of this case is that plaintiffs say that they wish to be credited for this time and the state contends —

Warren E. Burger:

Would this be an irrebuttable presumption that during the 11 months period this behavior was good as defined by the state institution?

Michael Colodner:

Well, if we were to accept the reasoning of the District Court judge we would have to -- may have any irrebuttable presumption to that fact.

There is no —

Warren E. Burger:

Even though his behavior might have been such as in the state institution, it would be rated as very bad.

You concede that, I take it, that that might be the consequence.

Michael Colodner:

That is true, but the real problem with this case presents is that the concept of good behavior in a county jail over and apart from the supervisory problem and the evaluation problem is totally different from the concept of good behavior in a state prison after someone has already been convicted and is now part of a rehabilitation program.

That was in fact demandable for rehabilitation.

If someone is in the county jail and he is arrested is presumed innocent, there seems to be no — certainly there is no need for the state or the county, or any political entity to institute a rehabilitation program for someone who is presumed innocent and is presumed to have no need for rehabilitation at all.

It is only after he has been convicted that not only does the state presume the need but the individual inmate.

Now it is in the proper attitude to presume that he can be reformed and rehabilitated.

Warren E. Burger:

Is there any classification process, at the detention level, as have the state level when they get into the penitentiary, do they undertake to classify people in categories of either skills or psychological--

Michael Colodner:

Your Honor, there is an orientation program when someone reaches the state penitentiary he goes to a receiving center.

Warren E. Burger:

No, but in the jail I am speaking of.

Michael Colodner:

There is nothing in the county jails at all.

You are detained, you cannot make bail, you are put in the cell and if by some fortuitous circumstances the local institution has some type of recreation available or some type of small —something or other if the inmate is lucky enough to be able to partake in that while he is waiting there for his trial.

That's true of every county in part of the New York?