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Court Limits Extradition-Refusal Power of State Courts

June 9, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today sharply limited the power of state courts to refuse to extradite people accused of crimes in other states.

The court, voting 7-2 in a child-custody case from California and Louisiana, said an asylum state’s courts may not try to determine the guilt or innocence of a person charged by another state in a properly certified indictment.

Writing for the court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor added that an asylum state’s courts also may not consider defenses the charged person may want to raise.

Interpreting the federal Extradition Act of 1793 and past decisions about its impact on the states, the justices said, ″The courts of asylum states may do no more than ascertain whether the requisites of the Extradition Act have been met.″

The decision was a victory for California officials seeking to extradite to Louisiana a father and grandfather accused in Louisiana of kidnapping the father’s two children.

The California Supreme Court previously had ruled that the two men, Richard Smolin and his father, Gerard, were not ″substantially charged″ with a crime in Louisiana because Smolin previously had won legal custody of the two children in a California court.

The Smolins took the children from a bus stop in St. Tammany’s Parish, La., in March 1984. The children had been living with their mother, Judith Pope.

The Smolins were divorced in 1978 in California, and custody of the children then had been awarded to their mother. A California judge, reversing the earlier custody order, ruled in 1981 that Smolin should have custody of the children because his wife had refused to allow him any contact with them.

In today’s decision, O’Connor said an extradition proceeding ″is neither the time nor place for the Smolins’ argument that Judith Pope’s affidavit is fraudulent and that the California custody decrees establish Richard as the lawful custodian under the full faith and credit provision of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.″

She added: ″If the Smolins are correct, they are not only innocent of the charges made against them, but also victims of a possible abuse of the criminal process. But, under the Extradition Act, it is for the Louisiana courts to do justice in this case, not the California courts.″

The case is California vs. Superior Court, 86-381.

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