The parties generally agree that the following scenario unfolded in 1979: On May 11, 1979, Murray Shack appeared for sentencing before a New Jersey trial judge who committed Shack to custody at Rahway State Prison for fifteen to twenty years. At sentencing, Shack was informed by the court that a detainer had been lodged against him, requiring his presence at Delaware County, Pennsylvania. On July 11, 1979, a night social worker at Rahway served upon the relator a copy of Delaware County's request for temporary custody pursuant to Article IV of the IAD. Shack was transported to Pennsylvania's Broadmeadows Prison on September 14, 1979, and on November 20, 1979 a jury found Shack guilty of robbery and conspiracy.
The parties dispute whether Shack invoked or waived his right to a pre-transfer hearing before his removal to Broadmeadows Prison. Relator claims that he refused to sign a waiver of extradition form proffered by Rahway's social worker at the time of service of Pennsylvania's IAD request; that he informed the social worker of his desire for a hearing; and that he renewed that request on September 14, 1979 before his transfer to Pennsylvania's custody. A response filed by the District Attorney of Delaware County denies relator's allegations. In support of their position, respondents refer to findings of fact made by a state trial court which rejected Shack's petition for habeas corpus. In relevant portion, the state court found that Shack did not communicate his desire for an extradition hearing to the social worker, and that the social worker neither discussed Shack's right to a hearing, nor "interpreted the manner of his removal from New Jersey to Pennsylvania." For present purposes, I will accept as true Shack's version of the facts.
Accorded a generous reading under the rule of Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972), Shack's pro se challenge to his Pennsylvania confinement proceeds on a twofold theory: he argues that deprivation of his right to a pre-transfer hearing, without more, renders his conviction vulnerable to attack under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
He argues further that, because he was transferred to Pennsylvania improperly, he should have been returned to New Jersey for a hearing, but that the very act of returning him to New Jersey would have discharged with prejudice Pennsylvania's criminal action against him under Article IV(e) of the IAD.
Turning first to Shack's argument that deprivation of his right to a pre-transfer hearing provides a basis for § 2254 relief, I discern two potential premises for his position. First, he claims that the improper manner of his transfer to Pennsylvania deprived the receiving state of personal jurisdiction with respect to his subsequent criminal trial. Second, he contends that because his conviction was obtained through a violation of the IAD, a federally approved interstate compact, his continuing confinement on that charge is in violation of federal law.
There is no merit in Shack's assertion that Pennsylvania lacked personal jurisdiction to prosecute him because of New Jersey's failure to conduct a pre-transfer hearing. It has long been established that the use of illegal means of extradition does not impair the receiving state's power to try a criminal defendant in a proceeding which is itself untainted by constitutional error. Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 436, 30 L. Ed. 421, 7 S. Ct. 225 (1886). The Supreme Court reaffirmed that principle in Frisbie v. Collins, 342 U.S. 519, 96 L. Ed. 541, 72 S. Ct. 509 (1952). There the Court refused habeas relief to a Michigan prisoner who claimed that "while he was living in Chicago, Michigan officers forcibly seized, handcuffed, blackjacked and took him to Michigan." 342 U.S. at 520. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Black refused to void the criminal conviction because of the allegedly unlawful extradition:
This Court has never departed from the rule announced in Ker v. Illinois, 119 U.S. 436, 444, 30 L. Ed. 421, 7 S. Ct. 225, that the power of a court to try a person for crime is not impaired by the fact that he had been brought within the court's jurisdiction by reason of a "forcible abduction." No persuasive reasons are now presented to justify overruling this line of cases. They rest on the sound basis that due process of law is satisfied when one present in court is convicted of crime after having been fairly apprized of the charges against him and after a fair trial in accordance with constitutional procedural safeguards. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a court to permit a guilty person rightfully convicted to escape justice because he was brought to trial against his will.
342 U.S. at 522 (footnote omitted).
In accord with this reasoning is United States ex rel. Huntt v. Russell, 285 F. Supp. 765 (E.D. Pa. 1968), aff'd 406 F.2d 744 (3d Cir. 1969) (per curiam). In Huntt, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the denial of a writ of habeas corpus sought by a prisoner who claimed, inter alia, that he was deprived of his right to appointed counsel at an extradition hearing. The district court opinion in Huntt relied upon Frisbie, and held that "illegal extradition does not afford a basis for relief by way of habeas corpus." 285 F. Supp. at 767. Accord Myers v. Rhay, 577 F.2d 504, 510 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 968, 58 L. Ed. 2d 427, 99 S. Ct. 459 (1978).
In short, Supreme Court and Third Circuit precedents establish that illegal extradition does not deprive the receiving sovereign of personal jurisdiction over criminal defendants so transmitted. Shack's claim that Pennsylvania lacked power to conduct his criminal prosecution must therefore be rejected.
The second potential premise of Shack's argument that deprivation of a pre-transfer hearing entitles him to § 2254 relief (i.e., that his confinement is in violation of the federally approved IAD) poses a more difficult question. As relator points out, the IAD has been held to be "a congressionally sanctioned interstate compact the interpretation of which presents a question of federal law." Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 442, 66 L. Ed. 2d 641, 101 S. Ct. 703 (1981). The IAD has further been interpreted as preserving and incorporating state law procedural protections for individuals sought to be extradited. Id., 443-450. Consistent with this interpretation, the Supreme Court has held that violation of a prisoner's right to a pre-transfer hearing gives rise to a cause of action under the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id.
The question whether deprivation of a pre-transfer hearing entitles relator to a writ of habeas corpus, however, is not resolved simply by determining whether the relator's transfer comported with federal standards. "[Not] every asserted error of law can be raised on a § 2255 motion."
Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 346, 41 L. Ed. 2d 109, 94 S. Ct. 2298 (1974). "The appropriate inquiry [is] whether the claimed error of law was 'a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice,' and whether 'it . . . presents exceptional circumstances where the need for the remedy afforded by the writ of habeas corpus is apparent.'" Id., quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428, 7 L. Ed. 2d 417, 82 S. Ct. 468 (1962).
The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has addressed the propriety of habeas relief in the context of various infractions of the IAD. In United States ex rel. Esola v. Groomes, 520 F.2d 830 (3d Cir. 1975), the court reversed the dismissal of a § 2254 petition filed by a New Jersey prisoner who alleged that his conviction was obtained in violation of Article IV(e) of the IAD. There the prisoner alleged that, while serving a federal sentence at Danbury, Connecticut, he was removed to New Jersey pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum on four occasions, standing trial only on his fourth transfer. Article IV(e) of the IAD requires dismissal of criminal charges by the receiving state if the prisoner is transferred from the asylum state pursuant to the IAD, but is returned to the asylum state before prosecution of the charges.
The court distinguished United States ex rel. Huntt v. Russell, 285 F. Supp. 765 (E.D. Pa. 1968) aff'd 406 F.2d 774 (3d Cir. 1969) on the ground that Huntt did not involve a claimed violation of the IAD. Reasoning that violations of rights guaranteed by the congressionally sanctioned compact also gave rise to transgressions of federal laws within the meaning of § 2254,
the Esola court then proceeded to rule that New Jersey's apparently erroneous failure to dismiss the indictment provided grounds for issuance of the writ.
The court of appeals next confronted an IAD violation in the context of a habeas petition in United States v. Williams, 615 F.2d 585 (3d Cir. 1980). The prisoner in Williams sought collateral review of his federal conviction on grounds that the conviction was obtained in violation of Article IV(e) of the IAD and that he had been denied the effective assistance of counsel because of his attorney's failure to assert the IAD defense at trial.
The petitioner claimed that Article IV(e) had been violated because, after attachment of a federal detainer, he was transferred at various times from state prison to the custody of federal authorities pursuant to writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, and then returned to state prison before prosecution on the federal charges. The district court denied the petition without a hearing. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for consideration of the petitioner's claim that his attorney's failure to raise the IAD defense denied him the effective assistance of counsel.
Relying on Esola, the court ruled that violations of Article IV(e) are violations of laws of the United States remediable under § 2255.
Of particular importance for present purposes, the Williams court addressed the question whether an Article IV(e) violation constitutes a "fundamental defect" warranting habeas relief under the standard announced in Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 41 L. Ed. 2d 109, 94 S. Ct. 2298 (1974). While recognizing that other courts of appeals had reached a contrary determination,
the court adhered to Esola's holding that transgressions of Article IV(e) provide a basis for granting the writ. The court reasoned that, under the very terms of the IAD, the sanction for failure to prosecute a prisoner before returning him to the asylum state is automatic dismissal of the criminal charges in the receiving jurisdiction. Thus, because federal law establishes Article IV(e) violations as an absolute defense to criminal charges, the court concluded that the existence of a meritorious claim under IV(e) was an "exceptional circumstance" entitling the petitioner to habeas relief.
The failure of the federal court to try the prisoner before returning him to state custody would be a violation of the Act meriting the dismissal of the charges against him. . . . The defense to the indictment is absolute under the Act when the Government violates Article IV. Under such circumstances, we fail to see how an alleged IADA violation would not be the type of "fundamental defect" cognizable in section 2255 proceedings. Although an IADA violation may have little if no [sic] bearing on the prisoner's guilt or innocence, nonetheless Congress chose to make the defense absolute when the Government violates the Act and we hold that it is precisely the "exceptional circumstances" making section 2255 relief appropriate.