The Extradition Clause is yet another provision which normalizes legal processes among the states. In this clause, the Constitution requires that if a person is charged with a crime in one state and flees to another, the harboring state must return the individual to the charging state.
There are two Supreme Court cases which are central to the history of the Extradition Clause. First, in Kentucky v. Dennison (1860)
, a man committed a crime in Kentucky by helping a slave escape. He then fled to Ohio. The Court did hold that, under the Extradition Clause, the governor of Ohio had the constitutional responsibility to return the man to Kentucky. However, practically, the Court refused to enforce the clause. Instead, it held that federal courts could not issue so-called “writs of mandamus” – essentially court orders – to force the governor to comply with the clause. Essentially, this greatly mitigated the power of the clause. However, in Puerto Rico v. Branstad (1987)
, the Court reversed its position. There, an Iowa man had struck pedestrians in Puerto Rico. The man then fled back to his home state; and the governor of Puerto Rico requested that Iowa return the fugitive, asking an Iowa federal court to enforce the Extradition Clause. The governor refused, and his decision was backed by the district court in Iowa, as well as the Circuit Court of Appeals. They cited the precedent set in Kentucky
. The Supreme Court reversed, however, holding the decision in Kentucky
to be outdated and no longer applicable. Iowa had to return the man to Puerto Rico. In the wake of Branstad
, courts now do
have the power to enforce the Extradition Clause.