Kart v. United States, No. 403

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation89 S.Ct. 1657,395 U.S. 185,23 L.Ed.2d 194
Docket NumberNo. 403
Decision Date26 May 1969
PartiesJack Frederick McKART, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES

395 U.S. 185
89 S.Ct. 1657
23 L.Ed.2d 194
Jack Frederick McKART, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 403.
Argued Feb. 27, 1969.
Decided May 26, 1969.

Page 186

George C. Pontikes, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Francis X. Beytagh, Asst. Sol. Gen., for respondent.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL, delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was indicted for willfully and knowingly failing to report for and submit to induction into the

Page 187

Armed Forces of the United States.1 At trial, petitioner's only defense was that he should have been exempt from military service because he was the 'sole surviving son' of a family whose father had been killed in action while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. 2 The District Court held that he could not raise that defense because he had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies provided by the Selective Service System. Accordingly, petitioner was convicted and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, with one judge dissenting. United States v. McKart, 395 F.2d 906 (C.A.6th Cir. 1968). We granted certiorari. 393 U.S. 922, 89 S.Ct. 256, 21 L.Ed.2d 258 (1968).

I.

The facts are not in dispute. Petitioner registered with his local Selective Service board shortly after his 18th birthday and thereafter completed his classification

Page 188

questionnaire. On that form he indicated that he was 'the sole surviving son of a family of which one or more sons or daughters were killed in action * * * while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States * * *.' On February 25, 1963, petitioner's local board placed him in Class I—A, available for military service; he made no attempt to appeal that classification.3

On March 2, 1964, he was ordered to report for a pre-induction physical, but failed to do so. He was declared a delinquent and ordered to report for induction on May 11, 1964. He failed to report, but instead wrote a letter to his local board indicating that his moral beliefs prevented him from cooperating with the Selective Service System. The local board replied by sending petitioner the form for claiming conscientious objector status. The board also referred to petitioner's indication in his original questionnaire that he was a sole surviving son and requested further information on that subject.

On May 20, 1964, petitioner returned the blank form, stating that he did not wish to be a conscientious objector. In response to the board's request for information about his claim to be a sole surviving son, petitioner indicated that his father had been killed in World War II. The local board, after consulting the State Director, again wrote petitioner requesting more information about his father. Petitioner supplied some of the information. The local board forwarded this information to the State

Page 189

Director, who requested the local board to reopen petitioner's classification.4 The board canceled his induction order and reclassified him IV—A, the appropriate classification for a registrant exempted as a sole surviving son. Petitioner remained in that classification until February 14, 1966.

Early in 1966, the local board learned of the death of petitioner's mother. After checking with the State Director, the board returned petitioner to Class I—A. The board rested this decision on the theory that a IV—A classification became improper when petitioner's 'family unit' ceased to exist on the death of his mother. Petitioner was ordered to report for a pre-induction physical. He failed to report and was declared a delinquent and ordered to report for induction. He again failed to report and, after further investigation, his criminal prosecution followed.5

II.

We think it clear that petitioner was exempt from military service as a sole surviving son. The sole surviving son exemption originated in the Selective Service Act of 1948, c. 625, § 6(o), 62 Stat. 613. As originally enacted, that section provided exemption for the sole surviving son only '(w)here one or more sons or daughters of a family were killed in action * * * while

Page 190

serving in the armed forces of the United States.' In 1964, the section was amended to extend the exemption to sole surviving sons whose fathers were killed in action. 78 Stat. 296. The section now reads in relevant part as follows:

'(W)here the father or one or more sons or daughters of a family were killed in action or died in line of duty while serving in the Armed Forces * * * the sole surviving son of such family shall not be inducted for service * * *.' 50 U.S.C. App. § 456(o).

There is no question that petitioner was entitled to an exemption before the death of his mother. The issue is whether her death, and the end of the immediate 'family unit,' ended that exemption.

We have found no cases discussing this aspect of § 6(o).6 The applicable Selective Service System Regulation, 32 CFR § 1622.40(a)(10) (1969), merely repeats the language of the statute. The System's administrative interpretations have not been uniform,7 although i the present case the National Director took the position that 'inasmuch as there is no family, it is not believed that (petitioner) would qualify for sole surviving son status.' We must, therefore, decide what is essentially a question of first impression. Our examination of the language and legislative history of § 6(o) indicates that the Selective Service System's interpretation fails to effectuate fully the purposes Congress had in mind in providing the exemption.

Page 191

The language of the statute provides only three conditions, two explicit and one implicit, upon which the exemption should terminate. The registrant may volunteer for service, a national emergency or war may be declared, or, implicitly, the registrant may cease to be the sole surviving son by the birth of a brother. The section says nothing about the continuing existence of a family unit, even though other provisions of the Selective Service laws make similar conditions explicit in other contexts.8

The argument for conditioning the exemption upon the continued existence of a family unit is based not upon the language or structure of the statute but upon certain references in the legislative history. These comments indicate that one purpose of the exemption was to provide 'solace and consolation' to the remaining family members by guaranteeing the presence of the sole surviving son. See S.Rep.No.1119, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., 3 (1964); Hearings before Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Committee on Armed Services on H.R. 2664, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 3442—3443 (1963), U.S.Code Cong. & Adm.News, p. 2539. When there is no one left to comfort, it is argued, the sole surviving son may be drafted. However, our examination of the sparse legislative history discloses that Congress

Page 192

had not one but several purposes in mind in providing the exemption, only some of which depend upon the existence of a family unit.

Perhaps chief among these other purposes was a desire to avoid extinguishing the male line of a family through the death in action of the only surviving son. See S.Rep.No. 1119, supra; Hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on H.R. 2664, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 30—31 (1963); 110 Cong.Rec. 15218 (1964) (remarks of Senator Keating). Other purposes mentioned were providing financial support for the remaining family members, fairness to the registrant who has lost his father in the service of his country, and the feeling that there is, under normal circumstances, a limit to the sacrifice that one family must make in the service of the country. See Hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on H.R. 2664, supra, at 30—31; Hearings before Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Committee on Armed Services on H.R. 2664, supra, at 3442—3443; 109 Cong.Rec. 24889 (1963).

Perhaps the most that can be said in these circumstances is that Congress had multiple purposes in mind in providing an exemption for a sole surviving son. Depriving petitioner of an exemption might not frustrate one of these purposes, but it certainly would frustrate several of the others. Therefore, given the beneficent basis for § 6(o), we cannot believe that Congress intended to make one factor, the existence of a 'family unit,' crucial. Accordingly, the death of petitioner's mother did not operate to deprive him of his right to be exempt from military service. The local board erred in classifying petitioner I—A and ordering him to report for induction.

III.

The Government maintains, however, that petitioner cannot raise the invalidity of his I—A classification and

Page 193

subsequent induction order as a defense to a criminal prosecution for refusal to report for induction. According to the Government, petitioner's failure to appeal his reclassification after the death of his mother constitutes a failure to exhaust available administrative remedies and therefore should bar all judicial review. For the reasons set out below, we cannot agree.

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is well established in the jurisprudence of administrative law. See generally 3 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise § 20.01 et seq. (1958 ed., 1965 Supp.); L. Jaffe, Judicial Control of Administrative Action 424—458 (1965). The doctrine provides 'that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted.' Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 50 51, 58 S.Ct. 459, 463, 82 L.Ed. 638 (1938). The doctrine is applied in a number of different situations and is, like most judicial doctrines, subject to numerous exceptions.9 Application of the doctrine to specific cases requires an understanding of its purposes and of the particular administrative scheme involved.

Perhaps the most common application of the exhaustion doctrine is in cases where the relevant statute provides that...

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  • Nguyen v. Fasano, No. 99-CV-1885-K(CGA).
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    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 1, 2000
    ...arise from either explicit statutory language or from the administrative scheme providing for agency relief. See McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Respondents point to regulations under which Petitioners can request the INS district director t......
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
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    ...process and to permit the agency ample opportunity to exercise its discretion or to utilize its expertise. See McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193-94, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662-63, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Exhaustion also affords the agency the opportunity to correct its own errors. Sagermar......
  • National Wildlife Federation v. Burford, No. 86-5239
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 15, 1987
    ...requirement, tailored to "an understanding of its purposes and of the particular administrative scheme involved." McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Ordinarily, further administrative review serves to allow the agency to make a factual re......
  • Strang v. Marsh, Civ. A. No. 83-0409 P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • February 21, 1985
    ...relevant facts, applied its expertise and exercised the discretion entrusted to it by law," id. at 497 (citing McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193-94, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969)). Plaintiffs respond that where further resort to agency processes would be "futile," it i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1507 cases
  • Nguyen v. Fasano, No. 99-CV-1885-K(CGA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 1, 2000
    ...arise from either explicit statutory language or from the administrative scheme providing for agency relief. See McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Respondents point to regulations under which Petitioners can request the INS district director t......
  • American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 24, 1989
    ...process and to permit the agency ample opportunity to exercise its discretion or to utilize its expertise. See McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193-94, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662-63, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Exhaustion also affords the agency the opportunity to correct its own errors. Sagermar......
  • National Wildlife Federation v. Burford, No. 86-5239
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 15, 1987
    ...requirement, tailored to "an understanding of its purposes and of the particular administrative scheme involved." McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969). Ordinarily, further administrative review serves to allow the agency to make a factual re......
  • Strang v. Marsh, Civ. A. No. 83-0409 P.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • February 21, 1985
    ...relevant facts, applied its expertise and exercised the discretion entrusted to it by law," id. at 497 (citing McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193-94, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 1662, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969)). Plaintiffs respond that where further resort to agency processes would be "futile," it i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
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    ...the courts. Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a judge-made doctrine developed for the same purposes. See McKart v. United States , 395 U.S. 185, 193 (1969). Finality is a diicult concept in part because agency actions may be inal for diferent purposes. For instance, an action may be ......
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    • Introduction to environmental law: cases and materials on water pollution control - 2d Edition
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    ...1995) ...............223 McGown v. United States, 747 F. Supp. 539, 21 ELR 20344 (E.D. Mo. 1990) ..........666 McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185 (1969) ........................................................... 153 Metlife Cap. Corp. v. Puerto Rico, 132 F.3d 818 (1st Cir. 1997) .............

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