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Bowman v. Wilson

decided: February 8, 1982.



Before Adams, Rosenn and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn


This appeal by Lieutenant Scott E. Wilson, Brig Officer of the Naval Confinement Facility, Philadelphia Naval Yard, raises important questions concerning the exercise of judicial authority in granting a writ of habeas corpus at the instance of a military prisoner under court-martial. The United States District Court, 514 F. Supp. 403 for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the writ, directing the military to produce Private Jerry Bowman at a mental competency hearing to be held before Judge Samuel E. Block of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and stayed pending military court-martial proceedings of Bowman.*fn1 Bowman claims that the Army wrongfully removed him from the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. He seeks return to the custody of the District of Columbia and the enjoinder of the court-martial proceedings pending at Fort Dix, New Jersey. We reverse the grant of habeas relief and vacate the order staying court-martial proceedings.


Bowman, a private in the United States Army assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey, was charged and referred for trial by General Court-Martial on September 17, 1979, for two violations of 10 U.S.C. § 925 (forcible sodomy), three violations of 10 U.S.C. § 886 (absence without leave), and one violation of 10 U.S.C. § 934 (general disorder-communicating a threat to injure). On the eve of his court-martial Bowman escaped from the physical custody of the Military.*fn2 On March 12, 1980, he was arrested in Washington, D.C., and subsequently indicted for first degree burglary, assault, and destruction of property. Following notification that Bowman was in police custody in the District of Columbia, the Armed Forces on March 16, 1980, lodged a military detainer for him with the District of Columbia Detention Facility.*fn3 Although Bowman was found to be mentally competent to stand trial, on September 3, 1980, Judge Block, on the basis of a stipulation found Bowman not guilty of all charges by reason of insanity, finding him suffering from a psychosis which was likely alcohol induced. Pursuant to D.C.Code § 24-301(d), which mandates a defendant's commitment to a psychiatric hospital after acquittal of criminal charges by reason of insanity, the court committed Bowman to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., for treatment. Two months later, on November 6, 1980, pursuant to the court's order, he was conditionally released from inpatient treatment at Saint Elizabeth's subject to his compliance with an outpatient treatment plan.*fn4 At the time that he ordered the conditional release, Judge Block was unaware of the outstanding court-martial charges against Bowman.

In December 1980, through a check of the Superior Court's data files, the military police learned of Bowman's acquittal by reason of insanity and his commitment to Saint Elizabeth's. When the military police contacted the hospital, they learned that Bowman was no longer an inpatient but was reporting to the hospital once a week. Without knowledge of Judge Block's conditional release order but with the consent of the Director of Forensic Programs at Saint Elizabeth's, the military police took Bowman into custody when he reported to the hospital on December 18, 1980. Since they were unaware of the Superior Court's order, the military police did not seek authorization from or notify the court. Bowman was returned to Fort Dix and then again transferred to the Naval Confinement Facility of the Philadelphia Naval Yard pending the resumption of the court-martial proceedings.

Bowman was subsequently charged with violation of 10 U.S.C. §§ 885 (desertion) and 895 (escape from confinement). A trial date for these and the earlier charges was set for February 17, 1981, postponed until April 22, and then postponed indefinitely pending resolution of the jurisdictional dispute which ensued. The court-martial proceedings remain stayed by order of this court.

Upon learning that the military police had arrested Bowman and removed him from the custody of the District of Columbia without authorization, Judge Block wrote the Army authorities requesting that Bowman be returned immediately. An attachment order of even date directed the United States Marshal, the District of Columbia Chief of Police, or any authorized law enforcement officer to return Bowman forthwith to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital to complete his treatment there.*fn5 The Military disregarded this and a subsequent order of the Superior Court directing that a hearing be held to review Bowman's custodial status.

Bowman then instituted these habeas corpus proceedings, alleging that the Army was denying him the psychiatric treatment and care to which he was entitled pursuant to his mandatory commitment by the Superior Court. He also objected to his removal by the Army from the jurisdiction of the Superior Court, which had never relinquished its claim of exclusive jurisdiction over him. Finally, Bowman objected to his removal from the care of a psychiatric hospital in one jurisdiction to military confinement in another without a court hearing and an opportunity to challenge the basis of the removal, asserting that his fourth amendment right to be free from illegal seizures had been violated.

The district court granted the writ of habeas corpus and ordered that Bowman either be returned directly to the custody of the District of Columbia or be held by the Army at Fort Meade, Virginia and be made available for the hearing which Judge Block had ordered so that he could determine whether Bowman should remain an outpatient, be recommitted to Saint Elizabeth's, or be remanded to the custody of the Military. The district court also stayed all pending military court-martial proceedings against Bowman pending the outcome of the Superior Court hearing. Although this court decided that in the interim the Military should retain custody of Bowman, we ordered a continuation of the district court's stay of court-martial proceedings and permitted the Superior Court hearing to be held pending plenary review of this appeal.*fn6

Bowman was returned to the District of Columbia and appeared before Judge Block, who ordered a psychiatric examination of Bowman. At a subsequent hearing, testimony based on the psychiatric examination revealed that although Bowman was not exhibiting any signs of acute alcoholic psychosis or organic impairment, diagnoses which had led to his acquittal by reason of insanity, he nonetheless was suffering from a severe paranoid personality disorder which required treatment. Judge Block then filed an interim decision in which he found that Bowman was neither in any immediate need of hospitalization nor entitled to unconditional release. The court refrained, however, from making a finding as to what level of commitment was required by Bowman's therapeutic needs pending the outcome of this appeal.

This case reaches us in an unusual posture. The underlying substantive question posed by this dispute is who may now first exercise jurisdictional authority over Bowman-the Superior Court or the military authorities. Bowman maintains that only Judge Block may determine his custodial status.*fn7 For its part the Military asserts that it is entitled to proceed immediately with its court-martial of Bowman. The district court disagreed with the Military and ordered Bowman returned to permit the Superior Court to decide how to accommodate Bowman's therapeutic needs with the Army's desire to expedite the court-martial. In view of the pendency of the instant appeal the Superior Court withheld disposition, deferring to our review of the district court's determination that the Superior Court and not the Military should first exercise authority over Bowman.

On this appeal we are called upon to address the more limited question whether the district court properly granted Bowman's habeas petition staying ongoing military proceedings in favor of the authority of the Superior Court. The Military raises three principal objections to the issuance of the habeas writ by the district court. First, the Military argues that Bowman lacks standing to challenge which of two sovereign authorities with the right to have custody of him first exercises its authority. Second, it argues that because Bowman has failed to exhaust his remedies in the military system the grant of habeas relief was inappropriate. Finally, the Military contends that in any event under principles analogous to those of Younger v. Harris the district court should not have interfered with pending military court-martial proceedings.



The question of standing is whether a particular litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S. Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343 (1975). Any inquiry into the contours of the standing doctrine must begin with and accommodate the basic limitation of federal court jurisdiction in Article III of the United States Constitution to "Cases" and "Controversies." U.S.Const.Art. III, § 2; see Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 151, 90 S. Ct. 827, 829, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184 (1970). For a constitutionally justiciable case or controversy to exist, the question at issue must be "presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95, 88 S. Ct. 1942, 1950, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947 (1968). To insure that sufficient adverseness between the litigants with respect to the question at hand exists, the standing doctrine requires that the plaintiff allege " "such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy' as to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction and to justify exercise of the court's remedial powers on his behalf." Warth v. Seldin, supra, 422 U.S. at 498-99, 95 S. Ct. at 2204-05 (quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S. Ct. 691, 703, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962)).

There have evolved over the years, in addition to the Article III limitations on a litigant's standing to sue, a series of prudential limitations that are closely related to their constitutional counterparts. These limitations deny standing to a litigant who, although he has alleged a sufficient stake to establish a constitutionally adequate case or controversy, for other reasons is not deemed an appropriate party to assert a ...

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