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MARSHALL v. UNITED STATES

decided: January 9, 1974.

MARSHALL
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Marshall, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Douglas and Brennan, JJ., joined, post, p. 430.

Author: Burger

[ 414 U.S. Page 418]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to consider petitioner's claim that the provisions of Title II of the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966, 18 U. S. C. §§ 4251-4255, deny due process and equal protection by excluding from discretionary rehabilitative commitment, in lieu of penal incarceration, addicts with two or more prior felony convictions. The Circuits are in apparent conflict on this question. See the opinion of the Court of Appeals in this case, sub nom. Marshall v. Parker, 470 F.2d 34 (CA9), and Watson v. United States, 141 U. S. App. D.C. 335, 439 F.2d 442 (1970); United States v. Hamilton, 149 U. S. App. D.C. 295, 462 F.2d 1190 (1972); United States v. Bishop, 469 F.2d 1337 (CA1 1972); and Macias v. United States, 464 F.2d 1292 (CA5 1972), cert. pending, No. 72-5539.

(1)

Petitioner, Robert Edward Marshall, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with entering a bank with intent to commit a felony, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (a). At sentencing, petitioner requested that he be considered for treatment as a narcotic addict pursuant to Tit. II of the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of

[ 414 U.S. Page 4191966]

     (NARA). The sentencing judge, after noting petitioner's prior felony convictions for burglary, forgery, and possession of a firearm, concluded that the exclusion of persons with two prior convictions from the discretionary provisions of the Act as set forth in 18 U. S. C. § 4251 (f)(4)*fn1 did not permit commitment under

[ 414 U.S. Page 420]

     NARA. Petitioner was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment pursuant to 18 U. S. C. § 4208 (a)(2), but the District Judge recommended that petitioner receive treatment for narcotics addiction while incarcerated.*fn2

Ten months after being sentenced, petitioner moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U. S. C. § 2255 on the ground that the two-prior-felony exclusion of NARA under § 4251 (f)(4) violates equal protection as embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The District Judge took note of Watson v. United States, supra, but declined to follow that holding. The District Judge also noted that there was no showing, as in Watson, supra, that petitioner's prior convictions and his drug addiction were related*fn3 and since his prior convictions did not relate to traffic in narcotics, the provisions

[ 414 U.S. Page 421]

     of 18 U. S. C. § 4251 (f)(2) did not apply. The District Judge determined that, given the purposes of the statute, Congress had not acted arbitrarily in providing different disposition standards for convicted persons with records of prior felony convictions from those without such convictions, these classifications being related to eligibility for rehabilitative commitment under NARA.

The Court of Appeals viewed petitioner's § 2255 petition as a motion under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure for correction of an illegal sentence, and held the statutory classification constitutionally permissible, noting its disagreement with the decisions in Watson, supra, and United States v. Hamilton, supra. Viewing the Act in its entirety,*fn4 the Court of Appeals concluded that Congress expressly limited the reach of the Act to addicts most likely to be rehabilitated through treatment and provided an exclusion as to convicted persons having two or more prior convictions.

Concluding there is no "fundamental right" to rehabilitation from narcotics addiction at public expense after conviction of a crime, and there being no "suspect" classification under the statutory scheme, the Court of Appeals considered the correct standard to be whether the statutory

[ 414 U.S. Page 422]

     classification bore "some relevance to the purpose for which the classification is made." Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 111 (1966); Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471 (1970). The court reasoned that Congress adopted the challenged standards in an effort to restrict eligibility to those most likely to respond to treatment and held that Congress could not be said to have acted irrationally in so doing. The District Court's denial of petitioner's motion to vacate his sentence was affirmed, 470 F.2d 34 (CA9 1972). We granted certiorari, 410 U.S. 954 (1973). We agree with the District Court's and the Court of Appeals' reading of the statute and affirm.

(2)

Petitioner concedes that the concept of equal protection as embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, see Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954), does not require that all persons be dealt with identically, but rather that there be some " rational basis" for the statutory distinctions made, McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 270 (1973), or that they "have some relevance to the purpose for which the classification is made." Baxstrom v. Herold, supra, at 111; Rinaldi v. Yeager, 384 U.S. 305, 309 (1966). See also James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128 (1972); Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504 (1972). He argues that no such nexus exists under the classification provided by the challenged statute.

The broad purpose of Congress in enacting NARA, as set forth in the Act itself, was:

"That certain persons charged with or convicted of violating Federal criminal laws, who are determined to be addicted to narcotic drugs, and likely to be rehabilitated through treatment, should, in lieu of prosecution or sentencing, be civilly committed for confinement and treatment designed to

[ 414 U.S. Page 423]

     effect their restoration to health, and return to society as useful ...


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