Bracy v. Gramley, Warden (96-6133), 520 U.S. 899 (1997).
[ Rehnquist ]
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NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.




certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 96-6133. Argued April 14, 1997 -- Decided June 9, 1997

Petitioner was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death before then Judge Thomas J. Maloney, an Illinois judge who was later convicted on federal charges of taking bribes from criminal defendants. In this federal habeas petition, petitioner claims that Maloney had an interest in his conviction to deflect suspicion that the judge was taking bribes in other murder cases during and around the time of petitioner's trial, and that this interest violated the fair trial guarantee of the Due Process Clause. The District Court denied both the claim and a supplemental discovery motion. In affirming, the Seventh Circuit held, inter alia, that petitioner had not shown "good cause" for discovery to prove his claim, as required by Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing §2254 Cases.

Held: Petitioner has made a sufficient factual showing, under Habeas Corpus Rule 6(a), to establish "good cause" for discovery on his claim of actual judicial bias in his case. Pp. 4-10.

(a) Before addressing whether petitioner is entitled to discovery, his claim's essential elements must be identified. See United States v. Armstrong, 517 U. S. ___, ___. Due process requires a fair trial before a judge without actual bias against the defendant or an interest in the outcome of his particular case. Petitioner claims that Maloney's acceptance of bribes from criminal defendants not only rendered him biased against the State in those cases, but also induced a compensatory bias against defendants who did not bribe him, since he did not want to appear "soft" on criminal defendants. There is no question that, if proved, such compensatory, camouflaging bias in petitioner's own case would violate due process. Pp. 4-6.

(b) Petitioner has shown good cause for appropriate discovery to prove his claim. The usual presumption that public officials have properly discharged their official duties has been soundly rebutted here. Maloney's public trial and conviction show that he was thoroughly corrupt. A Government proffer in that case details his corruption as both a trial attorney and a judge. Additional evidence supports the claim that Maloney was biased in petitioner's own case. His trial attorney was a former associate of Maloney's in a law practice that was familiar and comfortable with corruption, who announced that he was ready for trial just a few weeks after his appointment and requested no additional time before trial to prepare for the penalty phase of the case. Petitioner alleges that Maloney appointed the attorney with the understanding that he would not object to, or interfere with, a prompt trial, so that petitioner's case could camouflage bribe negotiations being conducted in another murder case. The Government's proffer confirms that petitioner's murder trial was sandwiched tightly between other murder trials that Maloney fixed. Although petitioner may be unable to obtain evidence sufficient to support a finding of actual judicial bias in his trial, he has made a sufficient showing to establish "good cause" for discovery. Although, given the facts of this particular case, it would be an abuse of discretion not to permit any discovery, Habeas Corpus Rule 6(a) provides that the scope and extent of discovery is a matter confided to the District Court's discretion. Pp. 6-10.

81 F. 3d 684, reversed and remanded.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.