327 U.S. 114 (1946), 292, Estep v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 292
Citation:327 U.S. 114, 66 S.Ct. 423, 90 L.Ed. 567
Party Name:Estep v. United States
Case Date:February 04, 1946
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 114

327 U.S. 114 (1946)

66 S.Ct. 423, 90 L.Ed. 567

Estep

v.

United States

No. 292

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 4, 1946

Argued November 7, 1945

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEAL

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. In a criminal prosecution under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 for willfully failing and refusing to submit to induction, a registrant who appeared at the induction center and was finally accepted, but who refused to submit to induction -- having pursued his administrative remedy to the end -- may interpose the defense that the action of his local board in rejecting his claim of exemption as a minister of religion and classifying him as available for military service was beyond its jurisdiction. Falbo v. United States, 320 U.S. 549, distinguished. P. 121.

2. Action of a local board which is contrary to the Act or the regulations prescribed pursuant thereto is beyond the jurisdiction of the board. Pp. 120-121.

3. The fact that the Selective Training and Service Act makes no provision for judicial review of the action of local boards or the appeal agencies is not necessarily to be construed as a denial of the power of the federal courts to grant relief in the exercise of the general jurisdiction which Congress has conferred upon them. P. 119.

4. Apart from constitutional requirements, the question whether judicial review will be provided where Congress is silent depends on the whole setting of the particular statute and the scheme of regulation which is adopted. P. 120.

5. Except when the Constitution requires it, judicial review of administrative action may be granted or withheld, as Congress chooses. P. 120.

6. Section 11 of the Selective Training and Service Act is not to be read as requiring courts to sanction orders which flagrantly violate the rules and regulations defining the jurisdiction of the local boards. P. 121.

7. The provision of the Act making decisions of the local boards "final" means that Congress chose not to give administrative action under the Act the customary scope of judicial review which obtains under other statutes; that the courts are not to weigh the evidence to determine whether the classification made by the local board was

Page 115

justified, and that decisions of the local boards made in conformity with the regulations are conclusive even though they may be erroneous. P. 122.

8. On judicial review, the question of the jurisdiction of the local board is reached only if there is no basis in fact for the classification given the registrant. P. 122.

150 F.2d 768, 148 F.2d 288, reversed.

No. 292. Petitioner was convicted of a violation of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The circuit court of appeals affirmed. 150 F.2d 768. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 703. Reversed, p. 125.

No. 66. Petitioner was convicted of a violation of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The circuit court of appeals affirmed. 148 F.2d 288. This Court granted certiorari. 325 U.S. 846. Reversed, p. 125.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Falbo v. United States, 320 U.S. 549, we held that, in a criminal prosecution under § 11 of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 894, 50 U.S.C. App. § 311, a registrant could not defend on the ground that he was wrongfully classified and was entitled to a statutory exemption where the offense was a failure to report for induction into the armed forces or for work of national importance.1 We found no provision for judicial

Page 116

review of a registrant's classification prior to the time when he had taken all the steps in the selective process and had been finally accepted by the armed services. The question in these cases is whether there may be judicial review of his classification in a prosecution under § 11 where he reported for induction, was finally accepted, but refused to submit to induction.

Estep's local board classified him as I-A -- i.e., as available for military service.2 Sec. 5(d) of the Act exempts from training and service (but not from registration) "regular or duly ordained ministers of religion." Under the regulations, those in that category are classified as IV-D.3 Estep, a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, claimed that he was entitled to that classification. The local board ruled against him. He took his case to the appeal board, which classified him as I-A.4 He then asked the State and National Directors of Selective Service to appeal to the President for him.5 His request was refused. The local board thereupon ordered him to report for [66 S.Ct. 425] induction. He reported at the time and place indicated. He was accepted by the Navy. But he refused to be inducted, claiming that he was exempt from service because he was an ordained minister of the gospel.

Page 117

He was indicted under § 11 of the Act for willfully failing and refusing to submit to induction.6 He sought to defend on the ground that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he was a minister of religion, and that he had been improperly denied exemption from service, because the classifying agencies acted arbitrarily and capriciously in refusing to classify him as IV-D. He also claimed that his right to an effective appeal had been denied because the local board unlawfully withheld certain relevant documents from the appeal board and included improper material in the record on appeal. The District Court rejected these defenses, and did not permit the introduction of evidence to sustain Estep's contention. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five years. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on a divided vote. 150 F.2d 768.

Smith, like Estep, is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses. He claimed exemption from all service on the ground that he was a minister of religion. His local board placed him in Class I-A, as available for military service. His classification was affirmed by the appeal board. On appeal to the President, his classification was again affirmed. The local board then ordered him to report for induction. He reported to the induction station, was accepted by the military, but refused to be inducted, claiming he was exempt from service because he was a minister. He was inducted against his will, and later was held for trial by a general court-martial for disobedience of military orders. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus ,which was denied, Smith v. Richart, 53 F.Supp. 582. While his

Page 118

appeal was pending, we decided Billings v. Truesdell, 321 U.S. 542. He was thereupon released from military custody and indicted for violation of § 11 of the Act. At the trial, he sought to attack the classification given him by his local board, claiming, among other things, that it acted without any foundation of fact, discriminated against him because he was a Jehovah's Witness, and denied him the right to make full proof of his claim that he was a minister of religion. The court ruled that no such defense could be tendered. Smith was found guilty by the jury, and a sentence of three and one-half years was imposed. The judgment of conviction was affirmed on appeal. Smith v. United States, 148 F.2d 288.

The cases are here on petitions for writs of certiorari which we granted because of the importance of the question presented.

Congress entrusted the administration of the Selective Service System to civilian agencies, not to the military. It authorized the President to create and establish a Selective Service System and to establish civilian local boards and appeal boards to administer it. § 10(a)(2). The Selective Service System was designed to

provide for the classification of registrants and of persons who volunteer for induction under this Act on the basis of availability for training and service.

Id. Congress specified certain restricted classes for deferment7 or exemption from service, including in the latter, as we have said, "regular or duly ordained ministers of religion." § 5. The President was authorized to provide for the deferment of other classes by rules and regulations.8 § 5(e).

Page 119

And the local boards, "under rules and regulations prescribed by the President," were granted the

power within their respective jurisdictions to hear and determine, subject to the right of appeal to the appeal boards herein authorized, all questions or claims with respect to inclusion for, or exemption or deferment from, training and service under this Act of all individuals within the jurisdiction of such local boards.

§ 10(a)(2). The Act makes no provision in terms for judicial review of the actions of the local boards or the appeal boards. For § 10(a)(2) states that the

decisions of such local boards shall be final except where an appeal is authorized in accordance with such rules and regulations as the President may prescribe.9

By the terms of the Act, Congress enlisted the aid of the federal courts only for enforcement purposes. Sec. 11 makes criminal a willful failure to perform any duty required of a registrant by the Act or the rules or regulations made under it. An order to report for induction is such a duty, and it includes the duty to submit to induction. Billings v. Truesdell, supra, p. 557. Sec. 11 confers jurisdiction on the district courts to try one charged with such offense. But § 11 is silent when it comes to the defenses, if any, which may be interposed.

Thus, we start with a statute which makes no provision for judicial review of the actions of the local boards or the appeal agencies. That alone, of course, is not decisive.

Page 120

For the silence of Congress as to judicial review is not necessarily to be construed as a denial of the power of the federal courts to grant relief in the exercise of the general jurisdiction which Congress has conferred upon them. American School of Magnetic Healing...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP