May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

Show Summary

May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971)

May v. City of Chicago

No. 70-5040

Argued October 14, 1971
Decided December 13, 1971
404 U.S. 189



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.


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, 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.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BURGER C.J., post, p. 199, and BLACKMUN, J., post, p. 201, filed concurring opinions.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971)

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971)

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971) in 404 U.S. 189 404 U.S. 190. Original Sources, accessed June 25, 2024,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971), in 404 U.S. 189, page 404 U.S. 190. Original Sources. 25 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in May v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189 (1971). cited in 1971, 404 U.S. 189, pp.404 U.S. 190. Original Sources, retrieved 25 June 2024, from