STACK V. BOYLE, 342 U. S. 1 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1 (1951)

Stack v. Boyle

No. 400

Argued October 18, 1951

Decided November 5, 1951

342 U.S. 1


1. The twelve petitioners were arrested on charges of conspiring to violate the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. IV) §§ 371, 2385, and their bail was fixed initially in amounts varying from $2,500 to $100,000. Subsequently, the District Court fixed bail pending trial in the uniform amount of $50,000 for each of them. They moved to reduce bail, claiming that it was "excessive" under the Eighth Amendment, and filed supporting statements of fact which were not controverted. The only evidence offered by the Government was a certified record showing that four other persons previously convicted under the Smith Act in another district had forfeited bail, and there was no evidence relating them to petitioners. The motion to reduce bail was denied.

Held: Bail has not been fixed by proper methods in this case. Pp. 342 U. S. 3-7.

(a) Bail set before trial at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated to fulfill the purpose of assuring the presence of the defendant is "excessive" under the Eighth Amendment. P. 342 U. S. 5.

(b) The fixing of bail before trial for any individual defendant must be based upon standards relevant to the purpose of assuring the presence of that defendant. Rule 46(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. P. 342 U. S. 5.

(c) If bail in an amount greater than that usually fixed for serious charges of crimes is required in the case of any of the

Page 342 U. S. 2

petitioners, that is a matter to which evidence should be directed in a hearing, so that the constitutional rights of each petitioner may be preserved. P. 342 U. S. 6.

2. After their motion to reduce bail was denied, petitioners did not appeal, but applied to the same District Court for habeas corpus. This was denied and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


(a) Petitioners' remedy is by motion to reduce bail, with the right of appeal to the Court of Appeals. Pp. 342 U. S. 6-7.

(b) The order denying the motion to reduce bail is appealable as a "final decision" of the District Court under 28 U.S.C. (Supp. IV) § 1291. P. 342 U. S. 6.

(c) While habeas corpus is an appropriate remedy for one held in custody in violation of the Constitution, the District Court should withhold relief in this collateral habeas corpus action where an adequate remedy available in the criminal proceeding has not been exhausted. Pp. 342 U. S. 6-7.

(d) The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded to the District Court with directions to vacate its order denying petitioners' applications for writs of habeas corpus and to dismiss the applications without prejudice. P. 342 U. S. 7.

(e) Petitioners may move for reduction of bail in the criminal proceeding, so that a hearing may be held for the purpose of fixing reasonable bail for each petitioner. P. 342 U. S. 7.

192 F.2d 56, judgment vacated and case remanded.

Petitioners' applications for habeas corpus were denied by the District Court. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 192 F.2d 56. This Court grants certiorari, post, p. 342 U. S. 4. Judgment vacated and case remanded, p. 342 U. S. 7.

Page 342 U. S. 3

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