329 U.S. 304 (1946), 59, Eagles v. Samuels

Docket Nº:No. 59
Citation:329 U.S. 304, 67 S.Ct. 313, 91 L.Ed. 308
Party Name:Eagles v. Samuels
Case Date:December 23, 1946
Court:United States Supreme Court

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329 U.S. 304 (1946)

67 S.Ct. 313, 91 L.Ed. 308




No. 59

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 23, 1946

Argued November 21, 1946




Respondent registered under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 and was classified IV-D under § 5(d), which exempts "students who are preparing for the ministry in theological or divinity schools recognized as such for more than one year" prior to the Act. Subsequently, he appeared before an advisory panel on theological classifications established by the New York City Director of Selective Service pursuant to § 10(a)(2), which consisted of prominent laymen and rabbis of respondent's faith. After hearing respondent, the panel concluded that he was not "preparing in good faith for a career of service in the practicing rabbinate," and so reported to the City Director, who transmitted this report and the transcript of the hearing to the local board with a request that respondent's classification be reopened, but with the statement that, while the local board should give careful consideration to the recommendation of the panel, the determination of the classification must be made by the board itself or by an appeal agency. The local board reclassified respondent I-A. After respondent submitted additional evidence and had two hearings before the local board and one before the board of appeal, his classification as I-A was sustained, and he was inducted into the Army. He petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, and was released unconditionally from military custody.


1. The fact that respondent had been released unconditionally from military custody under a writ of habeas corpus does not make the case moot in this Court, since a reversal would make lawful a resumption of the custody. Pp. 306-308.

2. Habeas corpus may not be used as a writ of error, and its function is exhausted when it is ascertained that the agency under whose order the petitioner is being held had jurisdiction to act. Pp. 311, 315.

3. The use of the theological panel was authorized by § 10(a)(2) of the Act, authorizing the establishment of "civilian local boards, civilian appeal boards, and such other agencies . . . as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act." Pp. 308, 312-313.

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4. Failure of the statement filed by the panel to disclose the names of its members did not render the administrative proceedings invalid per se where the registrant appeared before them, saw them face to face, recognized one of them, and made no effort, either at the time or subsequently, to ascertain who the others were. P. 314.

5. Nor are the administrative proceedings invalidated by the fact that, in addition to answering ecclesiastical questions, the panel rendered an advisory opinion on the bona fides of his claim. P. 316.

6. The fact that there was a two-year interruption in respondent's education, that he returned to the day session of the seminary in the month when his selective service questionnaire was returned, and that the seminary was not preparing men exclusively for the rabbinate, makes it impossible to say that the final classification made by the board of appeal was without evidence to support it. Pp. 316-317.

151 F.2d 801, reversed.

The District Court dismissed a writ of habeas corpus sought by respondent on the ground that he had been illegally inducted into military service. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, 151 F.2d 801, and he was released unconditionally. This Court granted certiorari. 328 U.S. 830. Reversed, p. 317.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[67 S.Ct. 314] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Samuels registered under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940,1 as amended, and thereafter claimed

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exemption from military service under § 5(d) of the Act. That exemption includes not only regular or duly ordained ministers of religion, but also "[s]tudents who are preparing for the ministry in theological or divinity schools recognized as such for more than one year prior" to the Act. He was classified I-A, and inducted into the Army. Thereafter he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus [67 S.Ct. 315] in the District Court, seeking release from military custody on the ground that he was entitled to an exemption under § 5(d) of the Act and that his classification as I-A was unlawful. There was a return and a hearing, and the District Court ordered the writ dismissed. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals, in reliance on United States ex rel. Levy v. Cain, 149 F.2d 338, reversed and remanded the cause to the District Court with directions to "discharge" Samuels "[f]rom military custody, without prejudice to further lawful proceedings under the Selective Service Act." United States ex rel. Samuels v. Pearson, 151 F.2d 801, 802.

The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted in order to resolve the conflict between the decision below and United States ex rel. Goodman v. Hearn, 153 F.2d 186, in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First. A question of mootness lies at the threshold of the case presented here. We are advised that, after remand of the cause, the District Court ordered the release of Samuels, and that he was thereupon unconditionally released from military custody. Samuels contends that the case is moot, since he is no longer in custody of the military or of any one else, but is free to come and go as he pleases.

Under our decisions, the case would be moot if the writ of habeas corpus had been denied below and, pending disposition of the petition here, Samuels had received a discharge from the army. Zimmerman v. Walker, 319 U.S. 744. And see Weber v. Squier, 315 U.S. 810; Tornello v. Hudspeth, 318 U.S. 792. That situation, like

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the case of a prisoner who, pending an appeal from denial of a writ of habeas corpus, is granted bail, Johnson v. Hoy, 227 U.S. 245; Wales v. Whitney, 114 U.S. 564, 572-574, would present no existing controversy. Habeas corpus is the means of making a judicial "Inquiry into the cause of restraint of liberty." R.S. § 752, 28 U.S.C. § 452. As stated in McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 137,

There is no warrant in either the statute or the writ for its use to invoke judicial determination of questions which could not affect the lawfulness of the custody and detention.

If the custody or restraint of liberty is terminated without use of the writ, the case is finished. Different considerations are brought into play if custody is ended through the writ itself.

Our rules recognize the beneficent function of the writ, Bowen v. Johnston, 306 U.S. 19, 26-27; People v. Jennings, 246 N.Y. 258, 158 N.E. 613,2 by providing that a prisoner to whom the writ has been granted may, pending appeal, be enlarged on a recognizance. Rule 45. The fact that he has been so enlarged does not render the appeal of the custodian moot. Carr v. Zaja, 283 U.S. 52, 53.3 In such a case, the release is obtained through the assertion of judicial power. It is the propriety of the exercise of that power which is in issue in the appellate court, whether the prisoner is discharged or remanded to custody. Though the writ has been granted and the prisoner released, [67 S.Ct. 316] the appellate court, by what it does, is not rendering

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an opinion and issuing an order which cannot affect the litigants in the case before it. Cf. St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 42, and cases cited. Affirmance makes the prisoner's release final and unconditional. Reversal undoes what the habeas corpus court did and makes lawful a resumption of the custody. Knewel v. Egan, 268 U.S. 442, 448; Haddox v. Richardson, 168 F. 635; James v. Amrine, 157 Kan. 397, 140 P.2d 362; State ex rel. Bond v. Langum, 135 Minn. 320, 160 N.W. 858.

Second. On the merits, the case involves primarily the use by the Selective Service System in New York City of advisory panels on theological classifications. Under the Act, the President is authorized to establish

Civilian local boards, civilian appeal boards, and such other agencies, including agencies of appeal, as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.

Section 10(a)(2), 57 Stat. 597, 598, 50 U.S.C. App.Supp. III, § 310(a)(2). With exceptions not material here, the President is authorized to delegate to the Director of Selective Service any authority vested in him under the Act. Section 10(b), 57 Stat. 597, 598, 50 U.S.C. App.Supp. III, § 310(b). And the Director may redelegate that authority. Id. The administration of the system in each State is delegated under the regulations to a state director. Sections 603.11, 603.12, 6 Fed.Reg. 6827. In New York City, however, a city director has been appointed who performs within that area the functions of the state director. Section 603.12-1, 8 Fed.Reg. 3514. The city director supervises the local boards and boards of appeal in New York City. He may require a local board to reopen and consider anew the classification of a registrant. Section 626.2(b), 9 Fed.Reg. 11619, § 626.2-1, 10 Fed.Reg. 9210. He may appeal to a board of appeal any determination of a local board. Section 627.1, 8 Fed.Reg. 16720, 10 Fed.Reg. 9210. He may require a board of appeal to reconsider its decision,

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§ 627.61, 8 Fed.Reg. 6017, or appeal from it to the President. Section 628.1, 7 Fed.Reg. 10521.

It appears that the city director, in aid of these functions, established theological panels. It was thought desirable to give the selective service personnel the benefit of the advice of those familiar with the educational practices of various religious groups so that Selective Service might exercise a more informed judgment in evaluating claims to classifications in IV-D. Accordingly, theological panels were constituted, one of which consisted of prominent laymen and rabbis of the Jewish...

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