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decided: January 7, 1952.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Jackson, Burton, Clark; Minton took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: VINSON

[ 342 U.S. Page 206]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In its 1948 revision of the Judicial Code, Congress provided that prisoners in custody under sentence of a federal

[ 342 U.S. Page 207]

     court may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct any sentence subject to collateral attack. 28 U. S. C. (Supp. IV) ยง 2255.*fn1

[ 342 U.S. Page 208]

     Respondent, confined at the McNeil Island penitentiary in the Western District of Washington,*fn2 invoked this new procedure by filing a motion to vacate his sentence and grant a new trial in the District Court for the Southern District of California. That court had imposed a sentence of twenty years' imprisonment in 1947 for forging Government checks and related violations of federal law.*fn3

In his motion, respondent alleged that he did not enjoy the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed defendants in federal courts by the Sixth Amendment. Specifically, he alleged that one Juanita Jackson, a principal witness against respondent at his trial and a defendant in a related case, was represented by the same lawyer as respondent. Respondent claims that he was not told of the dual representation and that he had no way of discovering the conflict until after the trial was over. It appeared from court records that Juanita Jackson testified against respondent after entering a plea of guilty but before sentence. Since a conflict in the interests of his attorney might have prejudiced respondent under these circumstances, the sentencing court and the court below, one judge dissenting, found that the allegations of respondent's motion warranted a hearing. Respondent's motion requested the issuance of an order to secure his presence at such a hearing.

For three days, the District Court received testimony in connection with the issues of fact raised by the motion. This proceeding was conducted without notice to respondent and without ordering the presence of respondent. On the basis of this ex parte investigation, the District Court found as a fact that respondent's counsel had also

[ 342 U.S. Page 209]

     represented Juanita Jackson but that he "did so only with the knowledge and consent, and at the instance and request of [respondent]." Pursuant to this finding, the District Court entered an order denying respondent's motion to vacate his sentence and to grant a new trial.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,*fn4 the majority, acting sua sponte, raised questions as to the adequacy and constitutionality of Section 2255. The court addressed itself to the provision that an application for a writ of habeas corpus "shall not be entertained" where the sentencing court has denied relief "unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." Considering that the proceedings in the District Court were proper under the terms of Section 2255, the court below held, one judge dissenting, that the Section 2255 procedure could not be adequate or effective in this case and, in the alternative, that the Section, in precluding resort to habeas corpus, amounted to an unconstitutional "suspension" of the writ of habeas corpus as to respondent.*fn5

On rehearing below, and again in this Court, the Government conceded that respondent's motion raised factual issues which required respondent's presence at a hearing. The Court of Appeals, however, refused either to affirm the denial of respondent's motion or to accept the Government's concession and remand the case for a hearing with respondent present. Instead, it treated Section 2255 as a nullity and ordered respondent's motion dismissed

[ 342 U.S. Page 210]

     so that respondent might proceed by habeas corpus in the district of his confinement. 187 F.2d 456.

We granted certiorari in this case, 341 U.S. 930 (1951), to review the decision that Section 2255 must be considered a nullity, a holding that stands in conflict with cases decided in other circuits.*fn6 We do not reconsider the concurrent findings of both courts below that respondent's motion states grounds to support a collateral attack on his sentence and raises substantial issues of fact calling for an inquiry into their verity.

First. The need for Section 2255 is best revealed by a review of the practical problems that had arisen in the administration of the federal courts' habeas corpus jurisdiction.

Power to issue the writ of habeas corpus, "the most celebrated writ in the English law,"*fn7 was granted to the federal courts in the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 81-82. Since Congress had not defined the term "habeas ...

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