[316 U.S. 455, 456] Messrs. Jesse Slingluff, Jr., G. Van Velsor Wolf, and William L. Marbury, Jr., all of Baltimore, Md., for petitioner.
Messrs. William C. Walsh, of Baltimore, Md., and Robert E. Clapp, Jr., of Frederick, Md., for respondent.
Mr. Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner was indicted for robbery in the Circuit Court of Carroll County, Maryland. Due to lack of funds [316 U.S. 455, 457] he was unable to employ counsel, and so informed the judge at his arraignment. He requested that counsel be appointed for him. The judge advised him that this could not be done as it was not the practice in Carroll County to appoint counsel for indigent defendants save in prosecutions for murder and rape.
Without waiving his asserted right to counsel the petitioner pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried without a jury. At his request witnesses were summoned in his behalf. He cross-examined the State's witnesses and examined his own. The latter gave testimony tending to establish an alibi. Although afforded the opportunity, he did not take the witness stand. The judge found him guilty and imposed a sentence of eight years.
While serving his sentence, the petitioner filed with a judge of the Circuit Court for Washington County, Maryland, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that he had been deprived of the right to assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. The writ issued, the cause was heard, his contention was rejected, and he was remanded to the custody of the prison warden.
Some months later a petition for a writ of habeas corpus was presented to Hon. Carroll T. Bond, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, setting up the same grounds for the prisoner's release as the former petition. The respondent answered, a hearing was afforded, at which an agreed statement of facts was offered by counsel for the parties, the evidence taken at the petitioner's trial was incorporated in the record, and the cause was argued. Judge Bond granted the writ but, for reasons set forth in an opinion, denied the relief prayed and remanded the petitioner to the respondent's custody.
The petitioner applied to this court for certiorari directed to Judge Bond. The writ was issued on account of the importance of the jurisdictional questions involved [316 U.S. 455, 458] and conflicting decisions1 upon the constitutional question presented. In awarding the writ, 315 U.S. 791 , 62 S.Ct. 639, 86 L.Ed. --, we requested counsel to discuss the jurisdiction of this court, 'particularly (1) whether the decision below is that of a court within the meaning of section 2372 of the Judicial Code, and (2) whether state remedies, either by appeal or by application to other judges or any other state court, have bene exhausted.'
1. Sec. 237 of the Judicial Code declares this court competent to review, upon certiorari, 'any cause wherein a final judgment ... has been rendered ... by the highest court' of a state 'in which a decision could be had' on a federal question. Was Judge Bond's judgment that of a court within the meaning of the statute? Answer must be made in the light of the applicable law of Maryland.
Art. 4, 6 of the State Constitution provides: 'All Judges shall by virtue of their offices be Conservators of the Peace throughout the State;' Sec. 1 of Art. 42 of the Public General Laws of Maryland (Flack's 1939 Edition) invests the Court of Appeals and the Chief Judge thereof, the Circuit Courts for the respective counties, and the several judges thereof, the Superior Court of Baltimore City, the Court of Common Pleas of that city, the Circuit Court and Circuit Court No. 2 of Baltimore City, the Baltimore City Court, and the judges of the said courts, out of court, and the Judge of the Court of Appeals from the City of Baltimore, with power to grant writs of habeas corpus and to exercise jurisdiction in all matters pertaining thereto. [316 U.S. 455, 459] Although it is settled that the grant to the Court of Appeals of the power to issue the writ is unconstitutional and void,3 and although the statute does not confer on individual judges of the Court of Appeals the power to issue a writ and proceed thereon, nevertheless, those judges, as conservators of the peace, have the power under the quoted section of the Constitution. 4 In any event, Judge Bond is the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the judge of that court from the City of Baltimore and, as such, is empowered to act.
Sections 2 to 6, inclusive, 9 to 12 inclusive, and 17 of the statute prescribe the procedure governing the issue of the writ, its service, the return, and the hearing. No question is made but that Judge Bond complied with these provisions. It is, therefore, apparent that in all respects he acted in a judicial capacity and that, in his proper person, he was a judicial tribunal having jurisdiction, upon pleadings and proofs, to hear and to adjudicate the issue of the legality of the petitioner's detention. If Judge Bond had been sitting in term time as a member of a court, clothed with power to act as one of the members of that court, his judgment would be that of a court within the scope of 237. Doubt that his judgment in the present instance is such arises out of our decision in McKnight v. James, 155 U.S. 685 , 15 S.Ct. 248, where we refused to review the denial of a discharge by a judge of an inferior court of Ohio who issued the writ and heard the case at chambers. It appeared that the petitioner had addressed his petition to a judge of the Circuit Court instead of the court itself and that, for this reason, the order of the judge was not reviewable by the Supreme Court of Ohio as it would have been had the writ been addressed [316 U.S. 455, 460] to the Circuit Court though heard by a single judge. The petitioner had not exhausted his state remedy since, though he could have obtained a decision by the highest court of the state, he had avoided doing so, and then sought to come to this court directly from the order of the Circuit judge on the theory that that judge's order was the final order of the highest court of the state which could decide his case. In a later decision we referred to this and other cognate cases as deciding that appeals do not lie to this court from orders by judges at chambers,5 but the fundamental reason for denying our jurisdiction was that the appellant had not exhausted state remedies.
In view of what has been said of the power of Judge Bond as a judicial tribunal to hear and finally decide the cause, and of the judicial quality of his action, we are of opinion that his judgment was that of a court within the intendment of Sec. 237.
2. Did the judgment entered comply with the requirement of Sec. 237 that it must be a final judgment rendered by the highest court in which a decision could be had? Again answer must be made in the light of the applicable law of Maryland. The judgment was final in the sense that an order of a Maryland judge in a habeas corpus case, whatever the court to which he belongs, is not reviewable by any other court of Maryland except in specific instances named in statutes which are here inapplicable. 6 It is true that the order was not final, and the petitioner has not exhausted state remedies in the sense that in Maryland, as in England, in many of the states, and in the federal courts, a prisoner may apply succes- [316 U.S. 455, 461] sively to one judge after another and to one court after another without exhausting his right. 7 We think this circumstance does not deny to the judgment in a given case the quality of finality requisite to this court's jurisdiction. Although the judgment is final in the sense that it is not subject to review by any other court of the State, we may, in our discretion, refuse the writ when there is a higher court of the State to which another petition for the relief sought could be addressed,8 but this is not such a case. To hold that, since successive applications to courts and judges of Maryland may be made as of right, the judgment in any case is not final, would be to deny all recourse to this court in such cases.
Since Judge Bond's order was a final disposition by the highest court of Maryland in which a judgment could be had of the issue joined on the instant petition we have jurisdiction to review it.
3. Was the petitioner's conviction and sentence a deprivation of his liberty without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, because of the court's refusal to appoint counsel at his request?
The Sixth Amendment of the national Constitution applies only to trials in federal courts. 9 The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate, [316 U.S. 455, 462] as such, the specific guarantees found in the Sixth Amendment10 although a denial by a state of rights or privileges specifically embodied in that and others of the first eight amendments may, in certain circumstances, or in connection with other elements, operate, in a given case, to deprive a litigant of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth. 11 Due process of law is secured against invasion by the federal Government by the Fifth Amendment and is safeguarded against state action in identical words by the Fourteenth. The phrase formulates a concept less rigid and more fluid than those envisaged in other specific and particular provisions of the Bill of Rights. Its application is less a matter of rule. Asserted denial is to be tested by an appraisal of the totality of facts in a given case. That which may, in one setting, constitute a denial of fundamental fairness, shocking to the universal sense of justice, may, in other circumstances, and in the light of other considerations, fall short of such denial. 12 In the application of such a concept there is always the danger of falling into the habit of formulating the guarantee into a set of hard and fast rules the application of which in a given case may be to ignore the qualifying factors therein disclosed.
The petitioner, in this instance, asks us, in effect, to apply a rule in the enforcement of the due process clause. He says the rule to be deduced from our former decisions is that, in every case, whatever the circumstances, one charged with crime, who is unable to obtain counsel, must be furnished counsel by the state. Expressions in the [316 U.S. 455, 463] opinions of this court lend color to the argument,13 but, as the petitioner admits, none of our decisions squarely adjudicates the question now presented.
In Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 , 53 S.Ct. 55, 65, 84 A.L.R. 527, ignorant and friendless negro youths, strangers in the community, without friends or means to obtain counsel, were hurried to trial for a capital offense without effective appointment of counsel on whom the burden of preparation and trial would rest, and without adequate opportunity to consult even the counsel casually appointed to represent them. This occurred in a State whose statute law required the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants prosecuted for the offense charged. Thus the trial was conducted in disregard of every principle of fairness and in disregard of that which was declared by the law of the State a requisite of fair trial. This court held the resulting convictions were without due process of law. It said that, in the light of all the facts, the failure of the trial court to afford the defendants reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel as a clear denial of due process. The court stated further that 'under the circumstances ... the necessity of counsel was so vital and imperative that the failure of the trial court to make an effective appointment of counsel was likewise a denial of due process', but added: 'whether this would be so in other criminal prosecutions, or under other circumstances, we need not determine. All that it is necessary now to decide, as we do decide, is that in a capital case, where the defendant is unable to employ counsel, and is incapable adequately of making his own defense because of ignorance, feeblemindedness, illiteracy, or the like, it is the duty of the court, whether requested or not, to assign [316 U.S. 455, 464] counsel for him as a necessary requisite of due process of law; ....'
Likewise, in Avery v. Alabama, 308 U.S. 444 , 60 S.Ct. 321, the state law required the appointment of counsel. The claim which we felt required examination, as in the Powell case, was that the purported compliance with this requirement amounted to mere lip service. Scrutiny of the record disclosed that counsel had been appointed and the defendant had been afforded adequate opportunity to prepare his defense with the aid of counsel. We, therefore, overruled the contention that due process had been denied.
In Smith v. O'Grady, 312 U.S. 329 , 61 S.Ct. 572, the petition for habeas corpus alleged a failure to appoint counsel but averred other facts which, if established, would prove that the trial was a mere sham and pretense, offensive to the concept of due process. There also, state law required the appointment of counsel for one on trial for the offence involved.
Those cases, which are the petitioner's chief reliance, do not rule this. The question we are now to decide is whether due process of law demands that in every criminal case, whatever the circumstances, a state must furnish counsel to an indigent defendant. Is the furnishing of counsel in all cases whatever dictated by natural, inherent, and fundamental principles of fairness? The answer to the question may be found in the common understanding of those who have lived under the Anglo- American system of law. By the Sixth Amendment the people ordained that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused should 'enjoy the right ... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.' We have construed the provision to require appointment of counsel in all cases where a defendant is unable to procure the services of an attorney, and where the right has not been intentionally and [316 U.S. 455, 465] competently waived. 14 Though, as we have noted, the amendment lays down no rule for the conduct of the states, the question recurs whether the constraint laid by the amendment upon the national courts expresses a rule so fundamental and essential to a fair trial, and so, to due process of law, that it is made obligatory upon the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Relevant data on the subject are afforded by constitutional and statutory provisions subsisting in the colonies and the states prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the national Constitution, and in the constitutional, legislative, and judicial history of the states to the present date. These constitute the most authoritative sources for ascertaining the considered judgment of the citizens of the states upon the question.
The Constitutions of the thirteen original states, as they were at the time of federal union, exhibit great diversity in respect of the right to have counsel in criminal cases. Rhode Island had no constitutional provision on the subject until 1843, North Carolina and South Carolina had none until 1868. Virginia has never had any. Maryland, in 1776, and New York, in 1777, adopted provisions to the effect that a defendant accused of crime should be 'allowed' counsel. A constitutional mandate that the accused should have a right to be heard by himself and by his counsel was adopted by Pennsylvania in 1776, New Hampshire in 1774, by Delaware in 1782, and by Connecticut in 1818. In 1790 Massachusetts ordained that the defendant should have the right to be heard by himself or his counsel at his election. In 1798 Georgia provided that the accused might be heard by himself or counsel or both. In 1776 New Jersey guaranteed the accused the same privileges of witnesses and counsel as their prosecutors 'are or shall be entitled to.' Art. 16. [316 U.S. 455, 466] The substance of these provisions of colonial and early state constitutions is explained by the contemporary common law. Originally in England a prisoner was not permitted to be heard by counsel upon the general issue of not guilty on any indictment for treason or felony. 15 The practice of English judges, however, was to permit counsel to advise with a defendant as to the conduct of his case and to represent him in collateral matters and as respects questions of law arising upon the trial. 16 In 1695 the rule was relaxed by statute17 to the extent of permitting one accused of treason the privilege of being heard by counsel. The rule forbidding the participation of counsel stood, however, as to indictments for felony, until 1836, when a statute accorded the right to defend by counsel against summary convictions and charges of felony. 18 In misdemeanor cases and, after 1695, in prosecutions for treason, the rule was that the defense must be conducted either by the defendant in person or by counsel, but that both might not participate in the trial. 19
In the light of this common law practice, it is evident that the constitutional provisions to the effect that a defendant should be 'allowed' counsel or should have a right 'to be heard by himself and his counsel', or that he might be heard by 'either or both', at his election, were intended to do away with the rules which denied representation, in whole or in part, by counsel in criminal prosecutions, but were not aimed to compel the state to provide counsel for a defendant. At the least, such a construction by state courts and legislators can not be said to lack reasonable basis. [316 U.S. 455, 467] The statutes in force in the thirteen original states at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights are also illuminating. It is of interest that the matter of appointment of counsel for defendants, if dealt with at all, was dealt with by statute rather than by constitutional provision. The contemporary legislation exhibits great diversity of policy.