WILKINS v. UNITED STATES
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Decided April 30, 1979
Where the pro se petitioner's untimely petition for certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' affirmance of petitioner's federal convictions alleges that his court-appointed attorney had failed to file a timely petition as requested by petitioner, this Court will, as suggested by the Solicitor General and even though petitioner did not first seek relief in the Court of Appeals, grant certiorari, vacate the Court of Appeals' judgment, and remand the case to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings, including the re-entry of its judgment affirming petitioner's convictions and, if appropriate, appointment of counsel to assist petitioner in seeking timely review of that judgment in this Court.
Certiorari granted; 559 F.2d 1210, vacated and remanded.
The pro se petitioner was convicted in a Federal District Court on criminal charges, 422 F. Supp. 1371 (ED Pa. 1977), and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the convictions on June 9, 1977, by judgment order. 559 F.2d 1210. This petition, filed on December 14, 1978, is therefore 17 months out of time as a conventional petition for certiorari under this Court's Rule 22 (2).
But this is not a conventional petition for certiorari. The petitioner states that he asked his court-appointed lawyer to file a timely petition for certiorari and that in September 1977 he received an assurance from the lawyer that this request had been honored. In July 1978, the petitioner wrote to the Clerk of this Court to inquire about his case and learned that no such petition had ever been filed. He then wrote several letters to his lawyer, but the letters were never answered. All these factual allegations are supported by the petitioner's affidavit and by the affidavits of his wife and his minister. [441 U.S. 468, 469]
The petition now before us presents a single question:
The Solicitor General has recommended that we grant certiorari, [441 U.S. 468, 470] vacate the judgment, and remand this case to the Court of Appeals so that a timely petition for certiorari to review the appellate judgment can be filed. Even though this petitioner, unlike the claimants in the Doherty and Schreiner cases, did not first apply to the Court of Appeals for relief, we agree with the suggestion of the Solicitor General.
The Court of Appeals, the Solicitor General, and this Court all have a strong interest in ensuring that lawyers appointed to aid indigents discharge their responsibilities fairly. Yet this prisoner's story of his appointed lawyer's indifference to his legitimate request for help is all too familiar. The petitioner's decision to apply directly to this Court for relief is under these circumstances understandable. Accordingly, the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for writ of certiorari are granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings, including the re-entry of its judgment affirming the petitioner's convictions and, if appropriate, appointment of counsel to assist the petitioner in seeking timely review of that judgment in this Court.
Because MR. JUSTICE STEVENS believes the Court of Appeals is the forum in which petitioner's allegations should be evaluated in the first instance, he would not vacate that court's judgment summarily.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL took no part in the decision of this case.
[ Footnote * ] The Criminal Justice Act Plan adopted by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit provides: