Clinton v. Goldsmith

Decision Date17 May 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-347.,98-347.
Citation526 U.S. 529
CourtU.S. Supreme Court


Souter, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Waxman, James A. Feldman, Lisa Schiavo Blatt, and Judith A. Miller.

John M. Economidy argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Carol L. Hubbard, Karen L. Hecker, and Douglas H. Kohrt.

Justice Souter, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The challenge here is to the use of the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. § 1651(a), by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, to enjoin the President and various military officials from dropping respondent from the rolls of the Air Force. Because that court's process was neither "in aid of" its strictly circumscribed jurisdiction to review court-martial findings and sentences under 10 U. S. C. § 867 nor "necessary or appropriate" in light of a servicemember's alternative opportunities to seek relief, we hold that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces lacked jurisdiction to issue the injunction.


Respondent James Goldsmith, a major in the United States Air Force, was ordered by a superior officer to inform his sex partners that he was HIV-positive and to take measures to block any transfer of bodily fluids during sexual relations. Contrary to this order, on two occasions Goldsmith had unprotected intercourse, once with a fellow officer and once with a civilian, without informing either that he was carrying HIV.

As a consequence of his defiance, Goldsmith was convicted by general court-martial of willful disobedience of an order from a superior commissioned officer, aggravated assault with means likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm, and assault consummated by battery, in violation of Articles 90 and 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U. S. C. §§ 890, 928(b)(1), (a). In 1994, he was sentenced to six years' confinement and forfeiture of $2,500 of his pay each month for six years. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in 1995, and when he sought no review of that decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), his conviction became final, see § 871(c)(1)(A).

In 1996, Congress expanded the President's authority by empowering him to drop from the rolls of the Armed Forces any officer who had both been sentenced by a court-martial to more than six months' confinement and served at least six months.1 See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, 110 Stat. 325, 10 U. S. C. §§ 1161(b)(2), 1167 (1994 ed., Supp. III).2 In reliance on this statutory authorization, the Air Force notified Goldsmith in 1996 that it was taking action to drop him from the rolls.

Goldsmith did not immediately contest the proposal to drop him, but rather petitioned the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for extraordinary relief under the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. § 1651(a), to redress the unrelated alleged interruption of his HIV medication during his incarceration. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to act, and it was in Goldsmith's appeal from that determination that he took the first steps to raise the issue now before us, an entirely new claim that the Air Force's action to drop him from the rolls was unconstitutional. He did not challenge his underlying court-martial conviction (the appeal period for which had expired, see Rule 19(a)(1), CAAF Rules of Practice and Procedure). But he charged that the proposed action violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, U. S. Const., Art. I, § 9, cl. 3 (arguing that the statute authorizing it had been enacted after the date of his conviction), and the Double Jeopardy Clause, U. S. Const., Amdt. 5 (arguing that the action would inflict successive punishment based on the same conduct underlying his first conviction). 48 M. J. 84, 89-90 (CAAF 1998). The CAAF, on a division of 3 to 2, granted the petition for extraordinary relief and relied on the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. § 1651(a), in enjoining the President and various other Executive Branch officials from dropping respondent from the rolls of the Air Force.3 We granted certiorari, 525 U. S. 961 (1998), and now reverse.4


When Congress exercised its power to govern and regulate the Armed Forces by establishing the CAAF, see U. S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 14; 10 U. S. C. § 941; see generally Weiss v. United States, 510 U. S. 163, 166-169 (1994), it confined the court's jurisdiction to the review of specified sentences imposed by courts-martial: the CAAF has the power to act "only with respect to the findings and sentence as approved by the court-martial's convening authority and as affirmed or set aside as incorrect in law by the Court of Criminal Appeals." 10 U. S. C. § 867(c).5 Cf. Parisi v. Davidson, 405 U. S. 34, 44 (1972) (Court of Military Appeals lacked express authority over claim for discharge based on conscientious objector status). Despite these limitations, the CAAF asserted jurisdiction and purported to justify reliance on the All Writs Act in this case on the view that "Congress intended it to have broad responsibility with respect to administration of military justice," 48 M. J., at 86-87,6 a position that Goldsmith urges us to adopt. This we cannot do.

While the All Writs Act authorizes employment of extraordinary writs, it confines the authority to the issuance of process "in aid of" the issuing court's jurisdiction. 28 U. S. C. § 1651(a) ("All courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law"). Thus, although military appellate courts are among those empowered to issue extraordinary writs under the Act, see Noyd v. Bond, 395 U. S. 683, 695, n. 7 (1969), the express terms of the Act confine the power of the CAAF to issuing process "in aid of" its existing statutory jurisdiction; the Act does not enlarge that jurisdiction, see, e. g., Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service, 474 U. S. 34, 41 (1985). See also 16 C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3932, p. 470 (2d ed. 1996) ("The All Writs Act . . . is not an independent grant of appellate jurisdiction"); 19 J. Moore & G. Pratt, Moore's Federal Practice § 204.024 (3d ed. 1998) ("The All Writs Act cannot enlarge a court's jurisdiction").

We have already seen that the CAAF's independent statutory jurisdiction is narrowly circumscribed. To be more specific, the CAAF is accorded jurisdiction by statute (so far as it concerns us here) to "review the record in specified cases reviewed by" the service courts of criminal appeals, 10 U. S. C. §§ 867(a)(2), (3), which in turn have jurisdiction to "review court-martial cases," § 866(a). Since the Air Force's action to drop respondent from the rolls was an executive action, not a "finding" or "sentence," § 867(c), that was (or could have been) imposed in a court-martial proceeding,7 the elimination of Goldsmith from the rolls appears straightforwardly to have been beyond the CAAF's jurisdiction to review and hence beyond the "aid" of the All Writs Act in reviewing it.

Goldsmith nonetheless claims that the CAAF has satisfied the "aid" requirement of the Act because it protected and effectuated the sentence meted out by the court-martial. Goldsmith emphasizes that the court-martial could have dismissed him from service, but instead chose to impose only confinement and forfeitures.8 Hence, he says the CAAF merely preserved that sentence as the court-martial imposed it, by precluding additional punishment, which would incidentally violate the Ex Post Facto and Double Jeopardy Clauses. But this is beside the point, for two related reasons. First, Goldsmith's court-martial sentence has not been changed; another military agency has simply taken independent action.9 It would presumably be an entirely different matter if a military authority attempted to alter a judgment by revising a court-martial finding and sentence to increase the punishment, contrary to the specific provisions of the UCMJ, and it certainly would be a different matter when such a judgment had been affirmed by an appellate court. In such a case, as the Government concedes, see Tr. of Oral Arg. 15, 19, 52, the All Writs power would allow the appellate court to compel adherence to its own judgment. See, e. g., United States v. United States Dist. Court for Southern Dist. of N. Y., 334 U. S. 258, 263-264 (1948). Second, the CAAF is not given authority, by the All Writs Act or otherwise, to oversee all matters arguably related to military justice, or to act as a plenary administrator even of criminal judgments it has affirmed. Simply stated, there is no source of continuing jurisdiction for the CAAF over all actions administering sentences that the CAAF at one time had the power to review. Thus the CAAF spoke too expansively when it held itself to be "empowered by the All Writs Act to grant extraordinary relief in a case in which the court-martial rendered a sentence that constituted an adequate basis for direct review in the CAAF after review in the intermediate court," 48 M. J., at 87.10


Even if the CAAF had some seriously arguable basis for jurisdiction in these circumstances, resort to the All Writs Act would still be out of bounds, being unjustifiable either as "necessary" or as "appropriate" in light of alternative remedies available to a servicemember demanding to be kept on the rolls.11 The All Writs Act invests a court with a power essentially equitable and, as such, not generally available to provide alternatives to other, adequate remedies at law. See, e. g., Carlisle v. United States, 517...

To continue reading

Request your trial
246 cases
  • Perry v. OCNAC #1 Fed. C.U., Civil No. 19-167 (NLH/KMW)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • October 28, 2019
    ...No. 14-6715, 2017 WL 465856, *3, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15849, *6 (D.N.J. Feb. 2, 2017) (quoting Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529, 539 n.13, 119 S. Ct. 1538, 143 L.Ed. 2d 720 (1999) ); 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a). Plaintiff's Initial Complaint suggests that the amount at issue far exceeds $10,000.......
  • Johnson v. Saul
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of California
    • June 14, 2020
    ...§ 1651(a). Similarly to the APA, the All Writs "Act does not enlarge th[e Court's] jurisdiction." Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529, 535, 119 S. Ct. 1538, 1542, 143 L. Ed. 2d 720 (1999) (citing Penn. Bureau of Corr. v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 474 U.S. 34, 41 (1985); 16 Charles Alan Wright, Ar......
  • Johnson v. Saul
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of California
    • January 25, 2021
    ...of law." 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a). Similarly to the APA, the All Writs "Act does not enlarge th[e Court's] jurisdiction." Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529, 535 (1999) (citing Penn. Bureau of Corr. v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 474 U.S. 34, 41 (1985); 16 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Edwar......
  • Wolfe v. McDonough
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Federal Circuit
    • March 17, 2022
    ...Mandamus might be appropriate to ensure compliance with the judgment in an individual case, see Clinton v. Goldsmith , 526 U.S. 529, 536, 119 S.Ct. 1538, 143 L.Ed.2d 720 (1999), but mandamus is not available to enforce the principle of stare decisis. Staab did not afford equitable relief ba......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Air Force Law Review No. 81, March 2020
    • March 22, 2020
    ...[90] Ortiz v. United States, 585 U.S. ___; 138 S.Ct. 2165 (2018); United States v. Denedo, 556 U.S. 904 (2009); Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529 (1999); United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303 (1998); Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651 (1997); Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748 (199......
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 No. 5, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...Id. at 442-43 (Alito,J., dissenting). (148) JAMES M. FISCHER, UNDERSTANDING REMEDIES 259 (2006). (149) See, e.g.. Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529, 537 (1999) ("The All Writs Act invests a court with a power cssentiallv equitable and, as such, not generally available to provide alternativ......
    • United States
    • Air Force Law Review No. 81, March 2020
    • March 22, 2020
    ...2 (codified at 10 U.S.C. [section] 802 (2020)). [13] UCMJ art. 5 (codified at 10 U.S.C. [section] 805 (2020)). [14] Clinton v. Goldsmith, 526 U.S. 529, 533-534 (1999) (internal citations [15] David A. Schlueter, The Military Justice Conundrum: Justice or Discipline?, 215 Mil. L. Rev. 1, 5-6......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT