Supreme Court Litigation Clinic Files Cert Petition in Pleau v. United States

Pleau v. United States, Petition for a Writ of Certiorari

STANFORD, Calif., August 21, 2012—The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, within the Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School, today filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of petitioner Jason W. Pleau, in the case Jason W. Pleau v. United States of America.

Mr. Pleau is currently in federal custody, following a contested transfer between the State of Rhode Island and federal authorities in 2010 and 2011. Pleau had been facing charges in State court but before those proceedings could commence, the United States invoked the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IAD) to secure the petitioner’s presence for trial on federal charges. He is accused of killing a gas station attendant during a robbery in 2010 in Rhode Island. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty; the State of Rhode Island does not practice capital punishment and Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, who is ethically opposed to the death penalty, sought to block the transfer of Mr. Pleau, invoking Article IV(a) of the IAD. The federal government then sought a habeas writ through the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island and won; petitioner appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; although initially prevailing in a panel decision in October 2011, the decision was overturned by an en banc panel in May 2012.

The question presented in this case:

The Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IAD Act), Pub. L. No. 91-538, 84 Stat. 1397 (1970) (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. app. 2), establishes rules and procedures to govern the situation in which one “State” brings criminal charges against a person imprisoned in another “State.” The Federal Government is a party to the Act; accordingly, the IAD provides that “[a]s used in this agreement[,] ‘State’ shall mean a State of the United States [or] the United States of America.” Art. II(a). As is relevant here, the IAD provides that when “the appropriate authority in the State where [the] indictment, information, or complaint” is pending requests temporary custody of a prisoner in order to try him, “the Governor of the sending State” – that is, the state in which the prisoner is incarcerated – “may disapprove the request for temporary custody or availability, either upon his own motion or upon motion of the prisoner.” Arts. IV(a) & V(a). Once the United States has invoked the IAD, an attempt to obtain a prisoner pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum constitutes a “written request for temporary custody” under the IAD. United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 361-62 (1978).

The question presented is the following: when the United States has invoked the IAD and seeks temporary custody of a state prisoner by means of a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, may the Governor of the sending State – pursuant to the plain language of the Agreement – disapprove that request?

Click to access a PDF copy of the cert. petition in Pleau v. United States.

Earlier today, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee also filed a cert. petition in the matter: Chafee v. United States.