Parker v. Ellis

LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 362 US 574 (1960)
ARGUED: Jan 20, 1960
DECIDED: May 16, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Parker v. Ellis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1960 (Part 2) in Parker v. Ellis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1960 (Part 1) in Parker v. Ellis

Earl Warren:

Number 38, George Lee Parker, Petitioner, versus O. B. Ellis, General Manager of Texas Prison System.

Mr. Wozencraft.

Frank W. Wozencraft:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case comes to this Court by a writ of certiorari from a decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which was handed down on August 29th, 1958.

The opinion was written by Judge Cameron and Judge Reeves dissented.

Rehearing was denied on September 29th of -- 1958, certiorari was filed on October 24th of 1958, and this Court granted certiorari on March 2nd, 1959.

It also granted petitioners leave to proceed in forma pauperis and I was appointed as counsel for the petitioner by this Court.

In -- on June 6 of 1959, petitioner finished serving his sentence in the Huntsville Penitentiary with time off for good behavior.

Earl Warren:

What time was that?

Frank W. Wozencraft:

On June 6, 1959, Mr. Chief Justice.

That was three months after certiorari was granted and at that time, he was dismissed from the penitentiary.

I informed the Court of this dismissal and suggested that there might be continuing legal effects of this conviction of his and that if the Court wished me to argue the possible applicability of the Pollard case, I would be happy to do so.

The Court has informed counsel through its clerk to add mootness to the issues to be argued in the brief and in the oral argument.

As in the briefs, I'd like to turn first to the question of denial of due process because I believe that this may effect in some way because -- which the Court may want to take in its discretion on the question of possible mootness.

The question of course is as Your Honors are aware, the denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, by denial to this petitioner and the right to counsel.

The colloquy in which this occurred is set forth in the brief for petitioner on pages seven and eight.

The Court called him for trial, asked if he was ready for trial.

He replied yes.

The court says, “Do you want a trial by jury or without a jury?”

Parker says, “Well -- and it's immaterial to me judge, I don't have any attorney.”

The Court, “Well, you're going to have to make up your mind.

It is certainly immaterial to the Court?”

Parker says, “I guess a jury then.”

“Do you have a lawyer hired?”

“No, I don't.”

The Court then advised the petitioner that the law does not require the Court to appoint an attorney to represent a defendant and a -- when -- where he has a trial by jury and it's not the practice of this Court to appoint any.

It's up to him to arrange for his own counsel.

If he wanted a suspended sentence, they would arrange perhaps for him to have counsel as to that particular question but not as to the merits.

And Mr. Parker said, “Well, he didn't have a lawyer.

Alright, he's ready for trial.”