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PEYTON V. ROWE, 391 U. S. 54 (1968)

U.S. Supreme Court

Peyton v. Rowe, 391 U.S. 54 (1968)

Peyton v. Rowe

No. 802

Argued March 27, 1968

Decided May 20, 1968

391 U.S. 54


Respondents, who are incarcerated under consecutive state prison sentences, have attacked as unconstitutional sentences which they have not begun to serve, in petitions for writs of habeas corpus which they have respectively filed in District Courts under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). That provision specifies that federal district courts may issue habeas corpus writs on behalf of prisoners who are "in custody in violation of the Constitution . . . of the United States." The District Courts, relying on McNally v. Hill, 293 U. S. 131 (1934), denied relief, holding that the petitions were premature, since respondents were not "in custody" within the statute's meaning under the sentences which they were challenging, and that respondents would not be able to attack those sentences until they started to serve them, which would not be until after 1990. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that, in light of more recent decisions, this Court would no longer follow McNally.

Held: A prisoner serving consecutive sentences is "in custody" under any one of them for purposes of § 2241(c)(3), and may in a federal habeas corpus proceeding thereunder challenge the constitutionality of a sentence scheduled for future service. The decision in McNally v. Hill, supra, which was compelled neither by statute nor history and which constitutes an indefensible barrier to prompt adjudication of constitutional claims in the federal courts, is overruled. Pp. 391 U. S. 58-67.

383 F.2d 709, affirmed.

Page 391 U. S. 55

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