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F, Fugitives from Justice.

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 21 January 2021

Fugitives from Justice.

Article IV of the Articles of Confederation provided for the rendition of fugitives from justice on “demand of the Governor” of the state from which they fled. Article IV, section 2 of the Constitution contained almost identical language. This clause contemplated a direct state-to-state rendition procedure, but following a dispute between Virginia and Pennsylvania, Congress adopted a combined extradition and *fugitive slave law in 1793 that set out procedures for extradition cases.

Extradition has usually been pro forma, except when requisitions have been technically inadequate or when people have been accused of politically charged crimes. Before the *Civil War, northern governors refused to extradite people accused of helping slaves escape from the South, while southern governors refused to extradite southerners accused of kidnapping free blacks and enslaving them. These cases led to controversies between many southern (Virginia, Georgia, (p. 370) Missouri, and Kentucky) and northern (Pennsylvania, Maine, New York, Illinois, and Ohio) states. In *Kentucky v. Dennison (1861), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had no power to force a state governor to extradite a fugitive.

Modern refusals to extradite have usually been politically motivated. In 1950 Michigan’s Governor G. Mennen Williams refused to extradite one of the “Scottsboro boys” who escaped from an Alabama prison. In the 1970s California’s Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. refused to extradite an American Indian activist wanted in South Dakota. In Puerto Rico v. Branstad (1987), the Supreme Court overturned Dennison, ruling that state governors had no discretion in extradition cases. This destroyed a basic principle of *federalism that had existed since 1787.

Paul Finkelman