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U.S. Supreme Court

California v. Superior Court, 482 U.S. 400 (1987)

California v. Superior Court of California, San Bernardino County

No. 86-381

Argued April 22, 1987

Decided June 9, 1987

482 U.S. 400


The Extradition Act, which implements the Extradition Clause of Article IV, requires an asylum State to give up to a demanding State a fugitive against whom a properly certified indictment has been lodged. After a California custody decree was modified to give Richard Smolin sole custody of his minor children and he secured a California warrant to obtain custody, he and his father picked up the children in Louisiana, where they were living with their mother. The mother then swore out an affidavit charging the Smolins with kidnaping, on the basis of which an information was filed charging them with violating a Louisiana statute prohibiting a parent's intentional taking of his own child from any person to whom custody has been awarded by any state court of competent jurisdiction. After the Governor of Louisiana formally notified the Governor of California of the charges and demanded that the Smolins be delivered up for trial, the California Superior Court granted them a writ of habeas corpus to block the extradition warrants against them. Taking judicial notice of the California custody orders, the court concluded that the Smolins were not substantially charged with crime under Louisiana law. Although the California Court of Appeal then issued a writ of mandate on the ground that the Superior Court had abused its discretion, the State Supreme Court reversed, finding that the California custody decrees were properly considered by the Superior Court, and that, under the full faith and credit provisions of the federal Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act of 1980, those decrees conclusively established that Richard Smolin was the childrens' lawful custodian at the time he took them. The court ruled that the Smolins had not been substantially charged with a crime, since, under Louisiana law, the lawful custodian of children cannot be guilty of kidnaping them.

Held: The Extradition Act prohibits the California Supreme Court from refusing to permit extradition. The language, history, and subsequent construction of the Act establish that extradition is meant to be a summary procedure, and that the asylum State's courts may do no more than ascertain whether (a) the extradition documents on their face are in order; (b) the petitioner has been charged with a crime in the demanding

Page 482 U. S. 401

State; (c) the petitioner is the person named in the request for extradition; and (d) the petitioner is a fugitive. Here, the only such inquiry in doubt is whether the Smolins have been charged with a crime in Louisiana, which question must be answered in the affirmative, since the information charging them is in proper form, and they do not dispute that the wife's affidavit, and documents incorporated by reference therein, set forth facts that clearly satisfy each element of the crime defined in the state parental kidnaping statute. Their contention that the requirement of Roberts v. Reilly, 116 U. S. 80, 116 U. S. 95, that the person demanded be "substantially charged" permits an inquiry by the asylum State into whether the charging instrument is sufficient to withstand a generalized motion to dismiss or common law demurrer is without merit. To the contrary, the asylum State may do no more than ascertain whether the requisites of the Extradition Act have been met, and may not entertain defenses or determine the guilt or innocence of the charged party. Thus, it is for the Louisiana courts to determine whether the wife's affidavit is fraudulent, whether the California custody decrees establish Richard Smolin as the children's lawful custodian under the full faith and credit provision of the federal Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act, and whether the Smolins were, accordingly, not guilty of violating the Louisiana statute. Pp. 482 U. S. 405-412.

41 Cal.3d 758, 716 P.2d 991, reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN J., joined, post, p. 482 U. S. 412.

Page 482 U. S. 402

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