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Mayer v. City of Chicago

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United States Supreme Court

404 U.S. 189

Mayer  v.  City of Chicago

 Argued: Oct. 14, 1971. --- Decided: Dec 13, 1971


Appellant was convicted on nonfelony charges of violating two city of Chicago ordinances and was sentenced to pay a fine of $250 on each offense. Desiring to appeal, he petitioned the trial court for a free trial transcript to support his appeal on the grounds of insufficient evidence and prosecutorial misconduct. Although the court found that he was indigent, it denied his application on the basis of an Illinois Supreme Court rule which provided for trial transcripts only in felony cases. Other rules provided alternatives to a transcript in the form of a 'Settled Statement' or an 'Agreed Statement of Facts.' Without resorting to either alternative, appellant moved for a free transcript in the State Supreme Court. The motion was denied. Held:

1. Although the State must afford the indigent defendant a trial "record of sufficient completeness' to permit proper consideration of (his) claims,' Draper v. Washington, 372 U.S. 487, 499, 83 S.Ct. 774, 781, 9 L.Ed.2d 899, it need not necessarily furnish a complete verbatim transcript, but may provide alternatives that accord effective appellate review. Pp. 193-195.

2. When the defendant's grounds for appeal, as here, make out a colorable need for a complete transcript, the State has the burden of showing that only a portion thereof or an 'alternative' will suffice for an effective appeal on those grounds. P. 195.

3. The distinction drawn by the State Supreme Court rule between felony and nonfelony offenses is an 'unreasoned distinction' proscribed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 195-196.

4. The fact that the charges on which the appellant was convicted were punishable by a fine rather than by confinement does not lessen the invidious discrimination against an indigent defendant. Pp. 196-198.

Vacated and remanded.

Henry F. Field, Chicago, Ill., for the appellant.

Richard L. Curry, Chicago, Ill., for the appellee.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).