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Adams v. Cuyler

decided: February 9, 1979.

JOHN ADAMS, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS
v.
JULIUS T. CUYLER, SUPERINTENDENT, STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, GRATERFORD, PENNSYLVANIA; THOMAS J. SHUSTED, PROSECUTOR, CAMDEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY; BRENDAN D. BYRNE, GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY; MILTON SHAPP, GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA; JOHN DOE, AND RICHARD ROE, DETECTIVES, CAMDEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY, APPELLEES



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 77-2075)

Before Seitz, Chief Judge and Gibbons and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Weis

Opinion OF THE COURT

This class action challenges the constitutionality of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 19, §§ 1431-1438 (Purdon 1964) (Agreement), and is brought by plaintiff Adams, an inmate of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania. After careful review, we find it unnecessary to decide the constitutional issues, but conclude on statutory grounds that procedural safeguards provided in the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 19, §§ 191.1-.31 (Purdon 1964 & Supp. 1978) (Extradition Act), also apply to prisoners subject to Article IV of the Detainer Agreement. We therefore will vacate the judgment of the district court dismissing plaintiff's complaint.

In May, 1977, New Jersey sent a request for temporary custody under the Agreement to the appropriate Pennsylvania authorities so that Adams could be brought to Camden, New Jersey for trial on charges of armed robbery and other offenses. He challenged the transfer in the district court under the Civil Rights Acts, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as damages. The pro se complaint alleged that plaintiff was not in New Jersey when the crime occurred and that an alibi witness had died in the interval created by the prosecutor's delay in lodging the detainer. Plaintiff contends that had he been given the procedural rights of the Extradition Act, the Pennsylvania courts would not have permitted his transfer. The district judge dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Adams v. Cuyler, 441 F. Supp. 556 (E.D.Pa.1977).

Adams received a copy of the request for temporary custody delineating the nature of the indictment lodged against him, but this notice did not contain a copy of the Agreement. Plaintiff contends that the failure to advise him of his right under Article IV of the Agreement to petition the governor for review of the custody request, as well as the absence of any pretransfer hearing provisions, constitute due process violations. He asserts, also, that the refusal of state authorities to apply the hearing requirement of the Extradition Act denies the affected prisoners equal protection under the law.

I.

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers is a compact among 47 states and the United States.*fn1 United States ex rel. Esola v. Groomes, 520 F.2d 830 (3d Cir. 1975). It was designed to end the many abuses of the detainer system, and to minimize disruption of the rehabilitative process by giving prisoners a means of insuring expeditious disposition of outstanding criminal charges. As discussed in United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 98 S. Ct. 1834, 56 L. Ed. 2d 329 (1978), the Agreement is an improvement, from both the prisoners' and states' viewpoints, over previous detainer arrangements.

Before embarking on an examination of the plaintiff's contention, we must determine if statutory construction will negate the need to confront the constitutional challenges. Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 543, 94 S. Ct. 1372, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577 (1974). We turn, therefore, to a review of the pertinent parts of the Detainer Agreement.

Article III of the Agreement provides that a person serving a term of imprisonment is to be given notice of a detainer lodged against him by the authorities of another state and has the right to demand disposition of the underlying indictment or criminal complaint. If the prisoner requests that the pending case be processed, he is then transferred to the accusing state where trial must be had within 180 days. Article III(a). This article enables the prisoner to compel the prosecuting authorities in the accusing state to dispose of all pending charges. See Article III(d).

Article IV is addressed to the prosecution and allows the authorities of the charging state to secure temporary custody of the prisoner so that he may be tried on outstanding indictments or complaints. Section (a) of that Article provides a simplified procedure for arranging transfer of the prisoner. The prosecutor, with the approval of the court that issued the indictments or complaint, serves a written notice upon the authorities of the asylum state. After a 30-day period when the governor of the asylum state may disapprove the request either upon his own motion or that of the prisoner, custody is granted to the accusing state. Article IV contains a speedy trial provision as well, which requires commencement of proceedings within 120 days after arrival in the accusing state. See Article IV(c).

Before adoption of the Agreement, the only method available to prosecutors to obtain custody of a person in another state was the extradition process. The procedure under the Extradition Act is more elaborate than that spelled out in the Interstate Detainer Agreement. In an extradition proceeding, the governor of the demanding state asks the governor of the asylum state to deliver the accused. The accused is then entitled to a hearing with the aid of counsel*fn2 before a judge of a court of record. There it must be shown that: the subject has been charged with the crime in the demanding state; the subject is a fugitive from that state; the subject was present in the demanding state at the time the crime was committed; the required papers are in order and the subject is in fact the person being charged. Commonwealth ex rel. Marshall v. Gedney, 478 Pa. 299, 306, 386 A.2d 942, 945 (1978).

The petitioner here asserts that there has been a denial of equal protection because these procedural measures were not available to him before his transfer under the Detainer Agreement. He contends that since prisoners requested by a state not a party to the Agreement receive these statutory benefits, the Equal Protection Guarantee of the United States Constitution is offended. This argument has been accepted by some state appellate courts, See Moen v. Wilson, 189 Colo. 85, 536 P.2d 1129 (Colo.1975); State ex rel. Garner v. Gray, 55 Wis.2d 574, 201 N.W.2d 163 (1972), and rejected by others, Wertheimer v. State, 294 Minn. 293, 201 N.W.2d 383 (1972); State v. Thompson, 133 N.J.Super. 180, 336 A.2d 11 (1975); Commonwealth ex rel. Coleman v. Cuyler, 261 Pa.Super. 274, 396 A.2d 394 (1978). Our reading of the Agreement obviates the need to answer Adams' contention.

In granting the prisoner the right to demand disposition of outstanding charges, Article III imposes a ...


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