Hopper v. United States

Decision Date18 January 1944
Docket NumberNo. 10110.,10110.
Citation142 F.2d 181
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Charlie W. Clark, of Phoenix, Ariz., for appellant.

Frank E. Flynn, U.S. Atty., and E. R. Thurman, Asst., both of Phoenix, Ariz., for appellee.


HEALY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is from a judgment of conviction under § 11 of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix, § 311. On an earlier hearing, 142 F.2d 167, the judgment was reversed on the ground of the insufficiency of the indictment. A rehearing was granted and the case was again argued, this time before the court sitting en banc. In view of the different result now reached we deem it advisable fully to recite the facts and to state our conclusions somewhat more at length, perhaps, than the gravity of the questions justifies.

Appellant is a native born citizen of the United States, and at the time of his registration under the Selective Service Act in October, 1940, he was twenty-two years old. He was then residing in Yavapai County, Arizona, of which Prescott is the county seat. On November 19, 1940, he filed with the Selective Service Board at Prescott his questionnaire showing the above facts and describing himself as a farm laborer and cattle raiser and as being unmarried and without dependents. In the questionnaire he stated that he is not a minister of religion and does not customarily serve as a minister, but that he is one of Jehovah's Witnesses and as such is entirely "neutral to the affairs of this world."

He was directed to report for physical examination, was examined, and was found fit for general service. He was thereupon, on December 7, 1940, placed in Class I-A and was so notified. A short time later, at his request, he was furnished with a conscientious objector form, which he filled out and returned to the board under date of December 31, 1940. In this report he again described himself as one of Jehovah's Witnesses and as neutral in mundane affairs. He did not assert that he was a minister, but claimed only exemption from service under direction of the military because conscientiously opposed by reason of his religious belief to participation in war in any form. Under date of January 20, 1941, in line with the registrant's own report, the local board reclassified him, placing him in Class IV-E, that is to say, in the category described in § 5(g) of the Act, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 305(g), as one assignable to work of national importance under civilian direction. Notice of this classification was mailed him at the time.

In May, 1941, the National Director of the Selective Service System directed appellant's assignment to work of national importance in the civilian camp at Glendora, California. On June 11, 1941, an order to report for such duty, entitled in the name of the President of the United States and signed by a board member, was mailed him.1 The date specified for his appearance was June 22, 1941, at 8:00 P. M. Appellant, in response to the notice, went to Prescott, contacted the board on June 19, and advised its members that he wished to appeal his classification on the ground that he was a minister, although he appears to have made no claim that his status in this respect had changed since the date of his registration. He was told, according to his own testimony, that he had waited too long and was not entitled to an appeal.2 He claimed, however, that he had not received the notice of his IV-E classification mailed him in January.3

Next day, June 20, 1941, he appeared before the board and the members thereof interrogated him, apparently for the purpose of satisfying themselves whether there was any ground for considering his claim to be a minister and to determine his good faith or the lack of it.4 Appellant's statements made at that time were taken by a stenographer and the transcribed questions and answers were introduced as an exhibit upon the trial of the case, forming part of the record here. In response to questioning by board members appellant, without further explanation, admitted having stated in his questionnaire that he was not and did not serve as a minister. While continuing to deny receipt of the notice of his IV-E classification he admitted having received all other communications directed to him by the board. He admitted that in May 1941 he had received from a Quaker organization in Washington a letter concerning his prospective service in the civilian camp, but had disregarded it. He admitted also having been told in May by a company servant of Jehovah's Witnesses that he might by changing his questionnaire be classified as a minister. This suggestion, too, he admitted having disregarded. From his story the board was warranted in believing not only that he was trifling with the truth when he denied knowledge of his IV-E classification, but that his present claim to exemption as a minister was a mere pretense.

On June 22, 1941, at the hour specified in the order requiring appellant to report, he presented himself to the board's administrative officer who again instructed him that it was his duty to go to the Glendora camp. His transportation and means for obtaining meals on the journey were tendered him but he declined to accept them, stating that he was appealing his case to state and national authorities and was not going to camp. It appears to have been his position then, as it was later at the trial, that he had the right to disobey while presently appealing from a classification made five months before at his own request. In sum, he undertook to formulate his own rules of procedure and to be the judge of his own case.

Thereafter the board brought the matter to the attention of the United States attorney, and appellant was indicted, tried, and convicted under § 11 of the Act providing that "any person charged as herein provided with the duty of carrying out any of the provisions of this Act, or the rules or regulations made or directions given thereunder, who shall knowingly fail or neglect to perform such duty," shall upon conviction be punished, etc.

We append the indictment in full in the footnote.5 Appellant moved to quash and later moved for a directed verdict, both times on the ground of the insufficiency of the indictment and the unconsitutionality of the Selective Service Act. The record shows that but one specific ground of insufficiency was urged upon the trial court. We quote this objection on the margin in the language of appellant's then counsel.6 The only specifications of insufficiency made in the brief here were (a) that the term "his/local draft board," as employed in the indictment, carried no legal meaning; and (b) that the indictment was defective in that it did not state when, where, or to whom the defendant was to report. However, the accused made no demand for a bill of particulars, and it is clear that he experienced no difficulty in understanding the charge and that he suffered no prejudice.

The indictment charged the crime in the language of the statute, with particulars of the direction given and disobeyed and the time and place of the disobedience. We think the essential elements of the offense are stated, if not directly, certainly by implication. In Crutchfield v. United States, 9 Cir., 142 F.2d 170, we held good, in the absence of objection, an indictment less specific, perhaps, than the present. And in United States v. Messersmith, 138 F.2d 599, November 11, 1943, the Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit held sufficient an evidently similar indictment saying: "Defendant contends that the indictment is vague and uncertain. It charges that defendant was duly assigned to work of national importance under civilian direction; that the Board directed him to report for such service and that he knowingly, intentionally and willfully failed to comply. This is a valid averment of violation of the law and fully advises defendant of the nature and character of the charge against him."

The courts are admonished by § 1025 of the Revised Statutes, 18 U.S.C.A. § 556, that "no indictment found and presented by a grand jury in any district or other court of the United States shall be deemed insufficient, nor shall the trial, judgment, or other proceeding thereon be affected by reason of any defect or imperfection in matter of form only, which shall not tend to the prejudice of the defendant."

At least since Hagner v. United States, 285 U.S. 427, 52 S.Ct. 417, 76 L.Ed. 861, the federal courts have determined the sufficiency of criminal pleadings on the basis of practical as opposed to technical considerations. As said by the court in that case, 285 U.S. at page 431, 52 S.Ct. at page 419, 76 L.Ed. 861, "the rigor of old common-law rules of criminal pleading has yielded, in modern practice, to the general principle that formal defects, not prejudicial, will be disregarded. The true test of the sufficiency of an indictment is not whether it could have been made more definite and certain, but whether it contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged, `and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and, in case any other proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense, whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction,'" (citing cases). The court further observed, 285 U.S. at page 433, 52 S.Ct. at page 420, 76 L.Ed. 861, that "upon a proceeding after verdict at least, no prejudice being shown, it is enough that the necessary facts appear in any form, or by fair construction can be found within the terms of the indictment."

In the Hagner case the defendant was indicted in the District of Columbia for using the mails to defraud. The charge was that in the execution of the fraudulent scheme he had deposited certain mail matter...

To continue reading

Request your trial
33 cases
  • Western Pac. RR Corp. v. Western Pac. R. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • July 9, 1952
    ...banc before Judges Wilbur, Garrecht, Denman, Mathews, Stephens and Healy, being all of the Circuit Judges of this Court. Hopper v. United States, 9 Cir., 142 F.2d 181. 2 United States v. Gallagher, 3 Cir., 183 F.2d 342, was heard by a panel of two Circuit Judges and one District Judge, and,......
  • E.E.O.C. v. Townley Engineering & Mfg. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • September 19, 1988
    ... ... TOWNLEY ENGINEERING & MANUFACTURING COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant ... No. 87-2272 ... United States Court of Appeals, ... Ninth Circuit ... Argued and Submitted March 18, 1988 ... provision ... Hopper v. United 142 F.2d 181 (9th federal no ... States ... ...
  • United States v. Eramdjian
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of California
    • October 7, 1957
    ...made by the defendant under compulsion of the statute, prior to the commission of the offense are admissible, Hopper v. United States, 9 Cir. en banc, 1944, 142 F.2d 181, 186; Tudor v. United States, 9 Cir., 1944, 142 F.2d 206, 207. The entire Selective Service file is admissible upon the t......
  • United States v. Shibley
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of California
    • May 11, 1953
    ...14 S.Ct. 934, 38 L.Ed. 830. 31 Hagner v. United States, 1932, 285 U.S. 427, 431, 52 S.Ct. 417, 76 L.Ed. 861. 32 Hopper v. United States, 1943, 9 Cir., 142 F.2d 181; Johnston v. United States, 9 Cir., 1944, 145 F.2d 137; Rose v. United States, 9 Cir., 1945, 149 F.2d 755, 758; Robinson v. Uni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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