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Lefkowitz v. Newsome

Case Name
Lefkowitz v. Newsome
420 U.S. 283
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
Potter Stewart
Judge(s) - Majority
William Douglas, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun
Judge(s) - Dissent
Warren Burger, Byron White, Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
2nd Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant was arrested for loitering in a New York City Housing Authority apartment building. A search of defendant produced heroin and drug paraphernalia. A state judge convicted defendant for loitering and denied his motion to suppress the fruits of the search. Defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted possession of dangerous drugs and pursued unsuccessful appeals in state courts. Defendant then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, and—because the loitering statute was found unconstitutional—the federal court granted it. The Supreme Court found the petition valid because a defendant may use federal habeas corpus review to present other constitutional claims when the state clearly provides appellate review for those same issues after a defendant pleads guilty. Though defendants in most states must plead not guilty, go to trial, and preserve the opportunity for state appellate review there, other states such as New York allow defendants to plead guilty, bypass trial, and litigate constitutional claims that arose during pretrial proceedings. The plea is merely a procedure, not a “break in the chain of events” that have preceded it. Defendant satisfied all the requirements for invoking federal habeas corpus jurisdiction and is thus entitled to review of his motion to suppress.

Key Quote

“Denying [defendant] the right to file a federal habeas corpus petition raising his claim of an unconstitutional seizure would not only deprive him of a federal forum despite the fact that he has satisfied all the requirements for invoking federal habeas corpus jurisdiction, it would also frustrate the State’s policy in providing post-guilty plea appellate review of pretrial motions to suppress.” p.292