Does the All Writs Act authorize courts to transport prisoners to outside medical facilities for testing to collect evidence to establish entitlement to habeas corpus relief, and must a court first determine if that evidence is material and admissible before granting the authorization to collect it?
This case asks the Supreme Court to determine whether the All Writs Act (“Act”), which controls an inmate’s access to attorneys and investigative services, authorizes courts to order state officials to transport prisoners to medical examinations in habeas corpus proceedings. In addition, this case asks the Supreme Court to determine whether prisoners must first demonstrate that the medical evidence is reviewable by the issuing court and material to a claim of habeas corpus relief before they can be granted an evidence-collecting writ under the Act. Tim Shoop, Warden, argues that Raymond Twyford’s writ, which orders Shoop to transport the Twyford to a medical examination, violates the “agreeable to the usages and principles of law” clause as well as the “necessary or appropriate clause” of the Act. Therefore, Shoop contends that Twyford’s writ must be struck down. Twyford counters by arguing that the writ in question satisfies both clauses of the Act. Consequently, Twyford argues that the writ must be affirmed. The outcome of this case will impact the rights of thousands of inmates in habeas corpus proceedings as well as the power of courts adjudicating habeas corpus claims.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
(1) Whether federal courts may use the All Writs Act to order the transportation of state prisoners for reasons not enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c); and (2) whether, before a court grants an order allowing a habeas petitioner to develop new evidence, it must determine whether the evidence could aid the petitioner in proving his entitlement to habeas relief, and whether the evidence may permissibly be considered by a habeas court.
In 1993, Raymond Twyford (“Twyford”) was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death by a jury in Ohio. Twyford v. Shoop at 521. In 2003 and 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court denied Twyford’s direct appeals and his federal habeas petition. Id. at 521–22.
In November 2018, Twyford filed for a court order to transport him to an outside medical facility for neurological testing. Id. Twyford argued that neurological testing was needed to establish his claim for habeas corpus relief. Id. at 522. The test results would substantiate that his neurological problems stemmed from childhood physical abuse and a self-inflicted gunshot wound caused by a suicide attempt in his teenage years. Id. Further, Twyford contends it is within the court’s jurisdiction to issue transportation orders in habeas corpus cases pursuant to the All Writs Act (“Act”). Id. The Act allows for inmates seeking habeas corpus relief to have access to an attorney and investigative services, such as medical testing. Id. at 524.
Tim Shoop (“Shoop”), Warden where Twyford was held, contended that courts should not issue transportation orders in the Twyford’s habeas corpus proceeding for two reasons. Id at 524. Firstly, Shoop argued that Congress intended the Act to be narrowly applied in habeas corpus proceedings. Id. For that reason, Shoop maintained that the court issuing transportation orders is inconsistent with the common-law and with statutotory interpretation of habeas corpus. Id. Secondly, Shoop argued that performing neurological testing is not “necessary or appropriate” because Twyford failed to show the results of the test are relevant or admissible evidence. Id.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (“District Court”) disagreed with Shoop and granted Twyfold’s motion. Id. at 522. The District Court reasoned Twyford’s test results “may aide this court in the exercise of its congressionally mandated habeas review.” Id. The District Court concluded that the Act authorizes courts to issue transport orders in habeas corpus cases when inmates need to receive medical testing to establish their claims for relief. Id. at 529. Id.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision, finding no errors. Id. The Sixth Circuit ruled the transportation order was “necessary and appropriate” to help the district court properly review the inmate’s habeas petition. Id. at 524. The court maintained the Act authorized the courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdiction and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Id. The Sixth Circuit further agreed with the Respondent that neurological testing was necessary for him to establish his claims of diminished capacity and ineffective assistance of counsel by his attorney for not adequately focusing on his neurological problems. Id. at 526. Second, the Sixth Circuit ruled the transportation order was consistent with the rules for habeas discovery and consistent with congressional intent. Id. at 527. According to the court, Congress intended habeas corpus proceedings to allow death penalty inmates to access an attorney and to conduct investigations after being convicted. Id.
The United States Supreme Court granted Shoop’s writ of certiorari on January 14, 2022.
WHETHER THE WRIT SATISFIES THE “AGREEABLE TO THE USAGES AND PRINCIPLES OF LAW” CLAUSE OF THE ALL WRITS ACT
Petitioner Shoop contends that the writ ordering him to transport Twyford to a medical examination is a writ of habeas corpus. See Brief for Petitioner, Tim Shoop at 33. As such, Shoop asserts that 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c) governs Twyford’s writ, as it governs writs of habeas corpus. Id. at 29–30, 33. Shoop then argues that the language of 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c) – particularly “the writ of habeas corpus shall not extend to a prisoner unless” – precludes the issuing of a writ of habeas corpus for reasons other than those listed within the statute. Id. at 29–30. Consequently, Shoop asserts that federal courts cannot issue a writ of habeas corpus ordering him to transport Twyford to a medical examination for the purpose of collecting evidence, since such a purpose is not listed in 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c). Id. at 34, 38. According to Shoop, the issuance of such a writ under the Act would violate the “agreeable to the usages and principles of law” clause of the Act, since it would be contradict 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c). Id. at 19, 27.
Respondent Twyford counters that the writ in question is not a writ of habeas corpus. Brief for Respondent, Raymond Twyford at 35. Instead, Twyford asserts that his writ is an auxiliary writ that was issued under the Act to facilitate a writ of habeas corpus. Id. Therefore, Twyford argues that 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c) does not prohibit his writ. See id. at 34–35. Twyford further contends that Rees v. Peyton (“Rees”) and Harris v. Nelson (“Harris”) govern his auxiliary writ. See id. at 29. According to Twyford, Rees explicitly permits federal courts to issue auxiliary writs under the Act that order the transportation of prisoners to medical examinations in habeas corpus cases. Id. at 29–30. Similarly, Twyford argues that Harris permits federal courts to “arrange for procedures which will allow development . . . of the facts relevant to disposition of a habeas corpus petition.” Id. at 29. As such, Twyford contends that his writ satisfies the “[agreeable to the] usages and principles of law” clause of the Act. See id. at 31. Twyford reasons that his writ is sufficiently agreeable since the writ is in line with the relevant Supreme Court precedent governing auxiliary writs. See id. According to Twyford, his writ is in line with the relevant Supreme Court precedent, since his writ 1) transports a prisoner to a medical examination as in Rees, and 2) is for the purpose of developing the evidence in his habeas corpus case as in Harris. See id. at 29–31.
WHETHER THE WRIT SATISFIES THE “NECESSARY OR APPROPRIATE” CLAUSE OF THE ALL WRITS ACT
Shoop argues that an evidence-collecting writ issued under the Act must satisfy several conditions to comply with the “necessary or appropriate clause” of the Act. Brief for Petitioner at 50. According to Shoop, the movant seeking the writ must demonstrate that the evidence the writ is intending to collect is reviewable by the issuing court and is material to a claim of relief. Id. In addition, Shoop asserts that the movant must demonstrate that these conditions are met before the writ can be issued. Id. Consequently, Shoop argues that Twyford’s writ—being an evidence-collecting writ as well as a transportation writ—does not satisfy the “necessary or appropriate” clause of the All Writs Act. Id. In particular, Shoop contends that the writ is not “necessary or appropriate,” since Twyford failed to demonstrate before the issuance of the writ that the evidence the writ is intending to collect is 1) permissible for the issuing court to review and 2) material to a claim of relief. Id.
Twyford responds that the “necessary or appropriate clause” of the Act does not require movants to satisfy the petitioner’s conditions before the issuance of an evidence collecting writ. Brief for Respondent at 43. Twyford contends that the petitioner’s pre-issuance requirement lacks any basis in federal statutes or case law. Id. Moreover, Twyford asserts that the petitioner’s pre-issuance requirement would be impractical. Id. at 47. Twyford maintains that a federal court can issue a writ before a determination of evidentiary permissibility or materiality. Id. at 48–49. In addition, Twyford argues that the “necessary or appropriate clause” of the Act only requires movants to demonstrate that the writ is “reasonably necessary in the interest of justice.” See id. at 40-42. Consequently, Twyford contends that his writ is “reasonably necessary in the interest of justice,” since it aims to acquire neurological information that “‘is crucial’ to counsel’s ‘ability to assist [the] Petitioner with the development and presentation of his claims.’” Id. at 41-42.
APPELLATE JURISDICTION OVER THE WRIT
Shoop argues that appellate courts have jurisdiction over “appeals from all final decisions of the district courts.” Reply of Petitioner, Tim Shoop at 1. Shoop then asserts that writs that are issued under the Act are final decisions as long as they satisfy three elements. Id. According to Shoop, they must be conclusive; they must resolve questions that are important and distinct from the merits; and they cannot be reviewed on appeal following a final judgement. Id. Shoop subsequently argues that Twyford’s transportation writ is conclusive since transportation “orders conclusively require transportation.” Id. Shoop asserts that Twyford’s writ resolves an important question that is separate from the merits, since it addresses whether a federal court has the power to compel a state official to transport a prisoner to a medical examination. See id. at 2. Moreover, Shoop contends that Twyford’s writ effectively cannot be reviewed after a final judgement, since appealing after a final judgment “would usually, perhaps always, be moot.” Id. at 3. As such, Shoop asserts that Twyford’s writ is a final decision. See id. at 1–3. Consequently, Shoop argues that the writ can be appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court and Supreme Court. Id.
Twyford argues that the Sixth Circuit Court and the Supreme Court lack appellate jurisdiction over an appeal of his writ. Brief for Respondent at 18. Twyford contends that neither appellate court has jurisdiction since Twyford’s transportation writ is not a final decision. See id. at 18–22. Twyford asserts that the writ is not a final decision because it addresses questions that are neither important nor separate from the merits. Id. at 24–25. Twyford claims that the questions are not important because they address whether the specific facts of the case justify the transportation of one prisoner to a medical examination this one time. Id. at 25. In disagreement with Shoop, Twyford further maintains that the writ does not resolve important questions relating to federal-state relations in the aggregate. Id. Twyford also asserts that the writ is not a final decision, since it can effectively be reviewed on appeal following a final judgement. Id. at 26. Consequently, Twyford argues that the Supreme Court should vacate the Sixth Circuit Court’s ruling and return the case to the district court. Id. at 17.
THE ROLE OF FEDERAL COURTS IN STATE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS
In support of Shoop, the State of Utah et al. (collectively “Utah”) maintain the Act is narrowly applied in habeas corpus cases, and thus the court is not authorized to grant transportation orders in an inmate’s habeas petition. Brief of Amici Curiae State of Utah and 20 Other States, in Support of Petitioners at 4. Utah contends that Congress did not intend the federal government to use the writ of habeas corpus to unreasonably intrude on a state’s criminal proceeding. Id. Utah argues two common law principles restrict federal court application of habeas corpus cases and that these principles were designed to protect state sovereignty. Id. First, Utah maintains the federal court can only access information and admit evidence that was presented to the state court that rendered the conviction. Id. at 5. Second, Utah maintains the federal court can grant habeas corpus relief when the state court handled a case unfairly or unjustly. Id. Thus, Utah argues since the state court is the principal court adjudicating constitutional claims, it is unacceptable to delay habeas corpus litigation to allow the inmate to collect information or evidence that is inadmissible in court. Id.
A group of federal judges (collectively “Federal Judges”), in support of Twyford, contend that the Act has a broad interpretation in habeas corpus cases, and therefore the federal court is authorized to require states to follow its transportation order related to a death row petitioner’s habeas petition. Brief of Amici Curie 18 Former Federal Judges, in Support of Respondent, at 6-7, 12. The Federal Judges acknowledge the Act is a founding legislative document in the United States along with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Id. at 6-7. The Federal Judges maintain that the Act contains open-ended and broad language to allow the courts “to fill statutory voids left by Congress.” Id. The Federal Judges further contends the Act’s flexibility was intended to resolve unjust judicial proceedings and to allow inmates the chance to prove their entitlement to a writ of habeas corpus. Id. at 7. In support of that claim, a group of law professors (the “Law Professors”) et al., in support of Twyford, point out the Act’s flexibility and broad application allows the court to adopt to changes in the judiciary. Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professor, in Support of Twyford, at 14. The Law Professors argue the Act grants court the power to accommodate the needs of different cases and to issue various orders. Id. at 910. Moreover, the Federal Judges assert that the courts long ago established that death row inmates are allowed various investigative tools to establish their habeas corpus claims given the fact that their punishment is severe and irrevocable. Brief of Amici Curie 18 Former Federal Judges at 9.
RISKS OF TRANSPORTATION ORDERS IN HABEAS CORPUS PROCEEDINGS
Utah, in support of Shoop, argues transporting inmates to outside medical facilities is a risk to public safety. Brief of Amici Curiae State of Utah and 20 Other States at 7, 18. For that reason, Utah contends the court should not grant transportation orders for medical testing in habeas corpus proceedings. Id. at 18. Utah maintains inmates are opportunistic and thus they will attempt to escape while at the medical center. Id. at 7, 11. That’s why, Utah claims, Congress passed the Interstate Transportation of Dangerous Criminal Act of 2000. Id. at 7. According to Utah, the Act requires private companies to handle the interstate transportation of prisoners to “enhance public safety.” Id. at 7–8. Utah further asserts that transporting inmates to hospitals is very dangerous since these facilities are not designed to handle a possible inmate escape or an inmate attack. Id. at 11–12. Utah contends that during examinations inmates are unchained and have access to hospital’s chemicals and tools that can be used as weapons if they try to escape. Id. In all, Utah argues the need to protect the public, hospital staff, and law enforcement outweighs courts granting dangerous inmates’ transportation request in habeas corpus proceedings. Id. at 18–19.
A group of United States attorneys (collectively “Attorneys”), in support of Twyford, counter with the claim that it is not dangerous to transport inmates to outside medical facilities. Brief of Amici Curiae of the United States, in Support of Respondent, at 17. After all, the Attorneys argue, the court would rarely issue transportation orders in habeas corpus proceedings, given that most testing can be conducted at the prison. Id. The Attorneys further suggest that courts are likely to require states to impose additional safety measures and precautions before allowing a dangerous inmate to be transported to a medical facility. Id. Similarly, the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain and Behavior, (“Massachusetts General Hospital Center”) argues the court should be concerned with the risk inmates encounter if they cannot conduct investigations or collect evidence to establish ineffective counsel in their habeas corpus cases. Brief of Amici Curiae The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, in Support of Respondent, at 13, 27.