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DEMAREST v. MANSPEAKER ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
Argued November 6, 1990
Decided January 8, 1991
Petitioner Demarest, an inmate in a state correctional facility, testified as a witness in a federal criminal trial pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum issued by the District Court. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1825(a), he requested that respondent clerk of the court certify that he was entitled to fees as a "witness . . . in attendance" under 1821. After the request was denied, he filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting the court to order the clerk to certify the fees, which was dismissed on the ground that 1821 does not authorize the payment of witness fees to prisoners. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, while 1821's language was unqualified, other evidence revealed that Congress did not intend to permit prisoners to receive witness fees.
Section 1821 requires payment of witness fees to a convicted state prisoner who testifies at a federal trial pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum. The statute's terms make virtually inescapable the conclusion that a "witness in attendance at any court of the United States" under 1821(a)(1) includes prisoners unless they are otherwise excepted in the statute. That Congress was thinking about incarcerated persons when it drafted the statute is shown by the fact that subsection (d)(1) excluded incarcerated witnesses from eligibility for subsistence payments and subsection (e) expressly excepted another class of incarcerated witnesses - detained aliens - from any eligibility for fees. The Government's argument that the language of 1825(a) - which requires that fees be paid to defense witnesses "appearing pursuant to subpoenas issued upon approval of the court" - modifies the "in attendance" at court language of 1821(a)(1) to exclude prisoners because they are "produced" under a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum is rejected. That reading is inconsistent with the Government's concession that fees are routinely paid to defense witnesses appearing by verbal agreement among the parties and with Hurtado v. United States, 410 U.S. 578 , which upheld the right to fees of material witnesses who, rather than being subpoenaed, were detained under former Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 46(b). If these are exceptions to the Government's concept of "in attendance," then that concept means no more than "summoned by a means other than a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum." Such a [498 U.S. 184, 185] view is not supported by the statutory language, and would lead to the anomaly that prisoners summoned to testify for the Government would receive fees - since 1825(a) does not require them to appear personally by subpoena - while witnesses summoned by the defendant would not. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals mistakenly relied on long-standing administrative construction of the statute and other Courts of Appeals' decisions denying attendance fees to prisoners, followed by congressional revision of the statute. Administrative interpretation of a statute contrary to the statute's plain language is not entitled to deference, and where the law is plain, subsequent reenactment does not constitute adoption of a previous administrative construction. This case does not present a rare and exceptional circumstance where the application of the statute as written will produce a result demonstrably at odds with its drafters' intentions. While there may be good reasons to deny fees to prisoners, who are seldom gainfully employed and therefore do not suffer the loss of income for attendance that many other witnesses do, the same can be said of children and retired persons, who are clearly entitled to fees. This Court declines to consider the Government's argument that defects in Demarest's petition constitute an independent basis for the clerk's decision to withhold certification, since it was not raised in the courts below. Pp. 187-191.
884 F.2d 1343, reversed.
REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
James E. Scarboro, by appointment of the Court, 495 U.S. 928 , argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Alfred T. McDonnell and David C. Warren.
Michael R. Lazerwitz argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Starr, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson.
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether 28 U.S.C. 1821 requires payment of witness fees to a convicted state prisoner who testifies at a federal trial pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit concluded that it does not. We disagree, and conclude that it does. [498 U.S. 184, 186]
In March, 1988, petitioner Richard Demarest, an inmate in a Colorado state correctional facility, was summoned to appear as a defense witness in a federal criminal trial. He was transported by a United States marshal to the Denver County Jail pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum which had been issued by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Demarest testified on the eighth day of the eleven-day trial, and remained in the custody of federal marshals throughout that period. After completing his testimony, Demarest sought fees as a "witness . . . in attendance," pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1821 for the eight days that he was available to testify and the two days that he spent in transit to and from the Denver County Jail.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1825(a), petitioner requested that the clerk of the District Court, respondent James Manspeaker, certify that petitioner was entitled to receive witness fees, and forward that certification to the United States marshal for payment of the fee. Respondent forwarded petitioner's request to the United States attorney, who in turn denied petitioner's request for certification on the ground that 1821(a) does not entitle prisoners to receive witness fees. Demarest subsequently sought a writ of mandamus requesting the District Court to order Manspeaker to certify his request for fees. The District Court dismissed the petition, agreeing with respondent that 1821 does not authorize the payment of witness fees to prisoners.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed by a divided vote. 884 F.2d 1343 (1989). The court held that, while the language of 1821 was "unqualified," other evidence revealed that Congress did not intend to permit prisoners to receive witness fees. We granted certiorari, 495 U.S. 903 (1990), in order to determine whether a convicted state prisoner brought to testify at a federal trial by virtue of a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum is entitled to witness fees under 1821. [498 U.S. 184, 187]
In deciding a question of statutory construction, we begin of course with the language of the statute. Section 1821 provides as follows:
Respondents rely on the cognate provisions of 28 U.S.C. 1825 to sustain the decision below. That section provides:
On the merits, the Government argues that the language of 1825, considered in pari materia with 1821, modifies the language of that section in a manner which justifies exclusion of prisoners from the witness fee provisions of that section. While conceding that 1821 applies to all witnesses in attendance, the Government urges that 1825(a)'s reference to subpoenas imports a highly particularized meaning to the words "in attendance." The Government observes that 1825(a) requires the clerk of the court to certify and pay attendance fees to defense witnesses "appearing pursuant to subpoenas issued upon approval of the court." The Government reads this language to be exclusive. Therefore, it reasons that, since prisoners are technically "produced" under a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum, rather than summoned by a subpoena, they are not the types of defense witnesses entitled to fees within 1821.
Although respondents' reading of these two sections is literally plausible, it is inconsistent with the Government's own concessions and with our decision in Hurtado v. United States, 410 U.S. 578 (1973). The Government admits that defense witnesses who appear other than by subpoena - by nothing more than verbal arrangement among the parties - are routinely paid witness fees. And in Hurtado, we upheld the right of material witnesses who were detained pursuant to former Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 46(b) to receive witness fees. These witnesses were not subpoenaed, but were detained pursuant to the Rule because of their inability to give security for appearance. 410 U.S., at 579 , n. 1.
Respondents nonetheless maintains that these are exceptions to the sort of "process" which it conceives to be a necessary element of being "in attendance" at court under 1821(a)(1). But by this point, the concept urged by respondents [498 U.S. 184, 190] comes to mean no more than "summoned by means other than a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum." Not only is there no support in the statutory language for this view, but the Government's construction would lead to the anomaly that prisoners summoned to testify for the Government would receive fees - since 1825(a) does not require such witnesses to appear personally by subpoena - while witnesses summoned by the defendant would not receive fees.
The Court of Appeals, while agreeing that the statutory analysis outlined above was "[o]n its face . . . an appealing argument," 884 F.2d, at 1345, relied on long-standing administrative construction of the statute denying attendance fees to prisoners, and two Court of Appeals decisions to the same effect, * followed by congressional revision of the statute in 1984.
But administrative interpretation of a statute contrary to language as plain as we find here is not entitled to deference. See Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio v. Betts, 492 U.S. 158 (1989). There is no indication that Congress was aware of the administrative construction, or of the appellate decisions, at the time it revised the statute. Where the law is plain, subsequent reenactment does not constitute an adoption of a previous administrative construction. Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6, 24 -25 (1969).
When we find the terms of a statute unambiguous, judicial inquiry is complete except in rare and exceptional circumstances. Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n, 481 U.S. 454, 461 (1987); Rubin v. United States, 449 U.S. 424, 430 (1981); TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 187 (1978). We do not believe that this is one of those rare cases where the application of the statute as written will produce a result "demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters." Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 U.S. 564 , [498 U.S. 184, 191] 571 (1982). There may be good reasons not to compensate prisoners for testifying at federal trials; they are seldom gainfully employed in prison, and therefore do not suffer the loss of income from attendance which many other witnesses do. But the same is true of children and retired persons, who are clearly entitled to witness fees under the statute and customarily receive them. We cannot say that the payment of witness fees to prisoners is so bizarre that Congress "could not have intended" it. Id., at 575.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
[ Footnote * ] Meadows v. United States Marshal, Northern District of Georgia, 434 F.2d 1007 (CA5 1970) cert. denied, 401 U.S. 1014 (1971); In re Grand Jury Matter (Witness RW), 697 F.2d 103 (CA3 1982). [498 U.S. 184, 192]