Nowakowski v. Maroney

PETITIONER: Nowakowski
LOCATION: Leon County Jailhouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 386 US 542 (1967)
ARGUED: Mar 13, 1967
DECIDED: Apr 10, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Nowakowski v. Maroney

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 13, 1967 in Nowakowski v. Maroney

Earl Warren:

Number 222, Edward John Nowakowski, Petitioner, versus James F. Moraney, Superintendent State Correctional Institution.

Mr. O'Hern.

Daniel J. O'Hern:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, Mr. District Attorney.

This case comes before the Court on a writ of certiorari to the Third Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Narrowly stated the question presented in the case as whether the Court of Appeals erred in denying this petitioner leave to appeal in form of paupers from a decision of the United States District Court for the western district of Pennsylvania which had discharged an order in connection with a writ of habeas corpus.

I think more broadly stated the question in the case whether this Court and whether in fact the federal system administration and justice, can make a reality of the emblem of the Court which is carved in stone on the front of the Court, equal justice under law.

Basically, the question which presents itself to the Court is an interpretation of the statute in my opinion, namely 28 U.S. Code Section 1915, now that Section or that statute provides basically the procedure or the scheme whereby indigent proceedings may be brought in the courts of the United States.

It's a very general statute and it applies to any court of the United States.

It says that they may -- any court may authorize the commencement and certainly of any suit without prepayment of fees, cause and security etcetera.

An appeal may not be taken in form of paupers if the trial court certifies in writing that it is not taken in good faith, so that it applies equally to appeals.

Part or subsection (d) of the statute says “The court may request an attorney to represent any such person, and that any such person unable to employ counsel, it may dismiss the case if the allegation of poverty is untrue or it satisfied that the action is frivolous or malicious.”

Now I think the question in this case is that what stage in the proceedings may the court, whichever court it may be, use that part of 28 U.S. Code Section 1915.

Now since Griffin against Illinois in 1955, I think this Court has made it clear and in a long series of cases dealing with appeal matters that any invidious discrimination against an indigent defendant will not be sustained.

Now, the question is how do you decide if the discrimination in any particular case is invidious.

In Douglas against California, there was a procedure whereby the Courts of Appeal of a state in that case, would decide if the issues were frivolous or faceless, and then in that event they would decide that counsel need not be required and they would not appoint counsel.

And in that case which came on before this Court, this Court held that that was not equal to the type of appeal which is allowed to a man of means and they struck down that part of the California procedures.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well Mr. O'Hern this case I gather from the -- after hearing the writ of habeas corpus was denied wasn't it?

Daniel J. O'Hern:

Yes --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

-- a probable cause issue?

A District Court --

Daniel J. O'Hern:

The district judge found that there was probable cause for taking the appeal.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

So he signed a probable cause.

Daniel J. O'Hern:

Yes Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And then the indigent here was denied leave to proceed in a form of paupers on an appeal as to which the District Court had certified there was probable cause, is that it?

Daniel J. O'Hern:

Already, that's right Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And what was he denied?

Leave to proceed in a form of paupers or denied and also an appeal like --

Daniel J. O'Hern:

Yes, Mr. Justice, he had three parts.

He wanted a transcript of the proceeding in the Federal District Court which apparently was available.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

That is in the habeas corpus?