However, the facts of this case elude the government theory of the case. The petitioner did first make a motion for relief to the Superior Court. The Superior Court denied him the relief, but the most important fact is the manner in which it was denied, specifically "without prejudice to its being filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia."
Of course, another Superior Court judge might have ruled differently. Denial of the writ could have been made with prejudice, after which the strict new D.C. provision Sec. 23-110(d) would have prohibited any federal official from entertaining it. However, this did not happen. The denial of the entire, -- not part, -- of the writ was without a hearing, was without prejudice, and in fact was made in a manner that pointed the way for petitioner to reach an appropriate forum for a full hearing of the merits of his allegations. Counsel's point is well taken that should this case be sent back to Superior Court in a Pyrrhic procedural victory for the government the writ of habeas corpus might be de facto suspended in contravention of Article I, sec. 9, paragraph 2, of the Constitution. The rather blithe assertions by the government contend that Judge Johnson either didn't deal with the second issue or denied relief on it, thereby still leaving the option open to calling Rodgers a D.C. employee and supposedly defeating federal jurisdiction.
What was in fact done by Judge Johnson, as reflected by her order, was a denial of the entire petition after full consideration, without a hearing and most crucially "without prejudice to its being filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia." Seen in this context therefore, protestation of the government that for this Court to assume jurisdiction in this case at this time would somehow violate the manifest intent of Congress, seem rather hollow. There is in fact no comity crisis here, no unlawful usurpation of "purely local" jurisdiction by the federal court.
Playing the shell game with Mr. Rodgers' "hats" does not aid in the maintenance of the delicate equilibrium established by the Congress for the courts of this city.
Utilizing Judge Johnson's denial, as well as 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(1) (extending the writ of habeas corpus in a federal court to persons "in custody under or by the color of the authority of the United States") and 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) (extending the habeas corpus privilege to persons in custody "in violation of the Constitution"), Petitioner Bland has shown the jurisdiction of this Court to be proper as regards the conditions of his confinement.
Turning then to the conditions of confinement it is well established that habeas corpus tests not only the fact but the form detention.
The writ tests the lawfulness of restrictions upon personal freedom.
Balanced against this is the traditional deference of the courts to the discretion of the internal administration of the prison system.
However, the discretion of prison authorities is not unlimited and if paramount federal constitutional or statutory rights come into play, prison regulations must conform to them.
Bland has not been convicted of the crimes with which he is charged. He is presumed innocent and thus has nearly all the constitutional rights of an unconvicted citizen. Bland, through his attorney, contends that he is getting the worse of both worlds, -- a sixteen year old youth imprisoned as an adult, but without those amenities afforded adults. He raises serious questions. He alleges serious deficiencies surrounding his detention.
The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to provide a prompt and efficacious remedy for whatever society deems to be intolerable restraints.
And federal courts must grant evidentiary hearings to applicants upon an appropriate showing.
The Supreme Court has emphasized, taking into account the office of the writ and the fact of the petitioner being in custody, that a habeas corpus proceeding must not be allowed to flounder in a "procedural morass."
Both Washington, D.C., and habeas corpus are unique in their own ways, which is part of the reason why this young man's petition, first filed on May 21, 1971, has not yet, as of July 7th, 1971, received a full hearing on the merits, despite his having made an appropriate showing. Accordingly, an evidentiary hearing on the precise nature of the conditions of petitioner's confinement will be held at the earliest moment feasible to counsel for the defendant as well as the government. The Respondent, Charles M. Rodgers, is therefore directed to produce the petitioner as well as himself, or his designated representative, at this hearing.
Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division
Special Proceedings Section SP No. 62-71
Charles M. Rodgers,
The above-entitled matter having come before the Court on a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and full consideration having been given the petition and answer thereto, it is this 2nd day of June, 1971.
ORDERED, that the Rule to Show Cause be discharged and the Petition be, and hereby is dismissed, without prejudice to its being filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
(s) Norma Holloway Johnson