Smith v. Bennett

LOCATION: Eagle Coffee Shoppe

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 365 US 708 (1961)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1961
DECIDED: Apr 17, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Smith v. Bennett

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1961 in Smith v. Bennett

Earl Warren:

Number 174, Neal Merle Smith, Petitioner, versus John E. Bennett, Warden, and number 177, Richard W. Marshall, versus John E. Bennett, Warden.

Mr. Hill.

Luther L. Hill, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Petitioners Smith and Marshall are presently incarcerated in the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison, Iowa.

They both attempted to file petitions for writs of habeas corpus in the District Court in and for Lee County, Iowa.

Neither petition for a writ was allowed by the Court because of the failure to pay a $4 filing fee required by Section 606.15 of the Code of Iowa.

Both petitioners attempted to appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court denied their motions to proceed in forma pauperis, apparently because of the failure to pay the filing fee, a $3 fee this time, required by Section 685.3 of the Iowa Code.

Now to back up for just a minute to get the picture of these two men, Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison for breaking and entering.

He was paroled to his home in Iowa City, Iowa.

Shortly after he was paroled, he was picked up for an alleged parole violation.

He was returned to the Iowa penitentiary and his sentence was there, he claims, arbitrarily extended.

He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

He alleged that unconstitutional methods and procedures have been used in his rearrest and he accompanied his petition with an affidavit of poverty and a motion that he'd be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis.

He thereafter received a letter from the clerk of the Lee County, Iowa District Court.

That letter read in full as follows.

“I am returning your motion to allow petition for writ of habeas corpus in forma pauperis.

If you will mail this office $4 to cover the filing fee for the above, it will be presented to the Honorable W.L. Hughes' count, who is one of the judges in that district.”

Smith then attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa.

He moved for a leave to proceed in forma pauperis in that Court.

The Supreme Court of Iowa denied the motion.

He then applied for certiorari to this Court, as a matter of fact, he attempted to appeal to this Court.

The appeal was dismissed but paupers were treated as a petition for certiorari.

Certiorari was granted and limited to the question presented in Burns versus Ohio.

Marshall, who was the other petitioner here, pled guilty to the crime of breaking and entering.

He too was sentenced to 10 years in the Fort Madison, Iowa Penitentiary.

He attempted to file a habeas corpus petition, alleging that his plea of guilty was obtained by coercion and do arrest in violation of the Constitution, and that the County Attorney's information was fatal on its face.

He too accompanied his petition with an affidavit of poverty and a motion to be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis.

He alleged that he was wholly without funds to pay the filing fees required.

In Marshall's case, the Court in the Lee County Iowa District Court actually rendered two opinions.

In the first opinion, the Court said that the filing fee had not been paid and therefore the matter was not properly before it.