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ENOMOTO v. WRIGHT - 434 U.S. 1052 (1978)

U.S. Supreme Court

ENOMOTO v. WRIGHT , 434 U.S. 1052 (1978)

434 U.S. 1052

Jiro J. ENOMOTO, etc., et al.
James C. WRIGHT et al
No. 77-504

Supreme Court of the United States

February 21, 1978

The judgment is affirmed.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.

Appellants seek to appeal to this Court a decision of a three-judge District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1253. That section provides for a direct appeal from any "suit or proceeding required by any Act of Congress to be heard and determined by a district court of three judges." If no Act of Congress required a three-judge District Court to hear this suit, the decision cannot be appealed directly to this Court pursuant to 1253 even though a three-judge court may have been in fact convened. Appeal lies instead to the United States Court of Appeals. Under such circumstances we do not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Board of Regents v. New Left Education Project, 404 U.S. 541, 30 L. Ed.2d 697 (1972);

Page 434 U.S. 1052 , 1053

Moody v. Flowers, 387 U.S. 97 (1967); Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246 (1941 ). Because I believe that no Act of Congress required a three-judge District Court in this case, I believe that the Court therefore errs in considering the merits of the appeal.

Appellee prisoners sued appellants, officials of the California prison system, in the District Court for the Northern District of California contending that constitutionally insufficient procedural safeguards are provided a prisoner who is placed into administrative segregation. A three-judge court was convened under 28 U.S.C. 2281 (now repealed) which at the time this action was filed provided for such a court whenever the constitutionality of a "State statute . . . or of an order made by an administrative board or commission acting under State statutes" is challenged.

It is the second clause of 2281 that is relevant here since appellees challenge no state statute. The District Court based its jurisdiction on a presumed challenge to various regulations promulgated and issued by the Director of the Department of Corrections of the State of California. According to the District Court, these regulations are " formal orders of statewide application" and thus a challenge to their constitutionality provides jurisdiction under 2281. Both because the regulations would not appear to be "order[s] made by an administrative board or commission" and because appellees would not appear to challenge the regulations, I do not believe that a three-judge District Court was required y 2281.

    "[T]he three-judge court statute is to be strictly construed." Board of Regents v. New Left Education Project, supra, 404 U.S., at 545. Loose construction of 2281 to require a three-judge court not only " entails a serious drain upon the federal judicial system" but also, inasmuch as direct review is in this Court, "defeat[s] the purposes of Congress, as expressed by the Jurisdictional Act of February 13, 1925, to keep within [434 U.S. 1052 , 1054]

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