Hilton Extradition: Petition for Habeas Corpus Denied

Judge Hillman has denied Alexander Hilton’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in which Hilton had challenged a magistrate judge’s decision that he could be extradited to the United Kingdom to face trial on charges of the attempted murder of Robert Forbes, a fellow student at St. Andrews University. I covered the petition here and the government’s response to the petition here.

The decision was more or less as expected. Hilton had argued that Scots criminal procedure, specifically the rule allowing a majority jury verdict rather than requiring a unanimous verdict, would violate his due process rights. The judge held that under the rule of non-inquiry, the court could not inquire into the fairness of criminal procedure in Scotland; such questions are for the executive, not the judiciary. The judge rejected Hilton’s arguments that the rule of non-inquiry should not apply because the Senate was unaware of Scotland’s jury rules when it ratified the US/UK extradition treaty, and it rejected his argument that an exception to the rule of non-inquiry existed because the case was exceptional. “The United Kingdom is one of this country’s most trusted treaty partners, not a country likely to have procedures so unfair that the Court should disregard an established rule,” the judge noted.

The judge also rejected Hilton’s arguments that because he suffers from mental illness, he should not be extradited on humanitarian grounds. Again, such questions are for the executive, not the judiciary. This is so even when the United Kingdom itself has refused to extradite defendants to the United States on such grounds. Even if the UK has violated the rule of reciprocity, any response is a matter for the executive, not the judiciary.

Hilton has a right of appeal to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and I think we will likely see a notice of appeal filed. It’s not entirely clear to me whether the magistrate judge’s stay of extradition continues in effect, so we may see some motion practice on that question, too.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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