Brief Fact Summary. Father and grandfather traveled to Louisiana and picked up his children without the knowledge of mother after attempts to enforce a custody decree failed. Mother instituted a criminal action for kidnapping, Father petitioned the California court to issue a writ of habeas corpus to prevent extradition.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Extradition Clause leaves only four issues open for consideration prior to a fugitive being delivered: 1) whether the extradition documents on their face are in order; 2) whether the petitioner has been charged with a crime in the demanding state; 3) whether the petitioner is the person named in the request for extradition; and 4) whether the petitioner is a fugitive.
Held. The California court erred by preventing jurisdiction.
The Extradition Clause of the United States Constitution places limits on the sovereign immunity of the States. It does not, however, establish a procedure by which interstate extradition is to take place. The Extradition Act is intended to establish such a procedure, and leave only four issues open for consideration prior to a fugitive being delivered: 1) whether the extradition documents on their face are in order; 2) whether the petitioner has been charged with a crime in the demanding state; 3) whether the petitioner is the person named in the request for extradition; and 4) whether the petitioner is a fugitive.
The Smolins contend that they have not been properly charged with a violation of Louisiana’s kidnapping statute. A properly certified Louisiana information charges the Smolins with violating the statute. The information is in the proper form, and sets forth facts that clearly satisfy each element of the crime. In the Court’s view, this ends the inquiry into the issue of whether or not a crime is charged.
The Smolins argue that more than a formal charge is required, and that the fugitive, upon a petition for writ of habeas corpus, should be permitted to show that the charging instrument is so insufficient it cannot withstand a generalized version of a motion to dismiss or common-law demurrer. Previous precedent makes clear that no such inquiry is permitted.
It is unclear why the States of California and Louisiana are eager to force the Smolins to face criminal charges that at least a majority of the California Supreme Court believe are meritless. If the Smolins are correct, they may be victims of a possible abuse of the criminal process. Nonetheless, under the Extradition Act it is for the Louisiana courts to decide, not the California courts.
Dissent. Three reasons compel the conclusion that we should reject the notion that a parent who holds custody as determined by the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act must by extradited as a charged kidnapper. First, By allowing the custodial parent under federal law to be branded as a fugitive, the Court implicitly approves non-adherence to the uniform federal rule governing custody determinations. Second, requiring extradition is at cross purposes with Congress’ intent to discourage continuing interstate controversies over child custody and to deter interstate abductions and other unilateral removals of children undertaken to obtain custody and visitation awards. Third, the Extradition Clause should be construed consistently with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. The reasoning of the Court adopts an overly restrictive view of the questions that the habeas courts of a rendering State must pose.
Discussion. The majority acknowledged that the charges the Smolins faced were weak, but found that the Extradition Act limited the inquiry that could be made to prevent jurisdiction. The dissent argued for a more expansive view.