Miller v. Rockefeller, 70 Civ. 2647.

Decision Date08 March 1971
Docket NumberNo. 70 Civ. 2647.,70 Civ. 2647.
Citation327 F. Supp. 542
PartiesRichard V. MILLER and Jeffrey Greenstein, Plaintiffs, v. Nelson ROCKEFELLER, Governor of the State of New York, Commander in Chief of the New York Army National Guard, Martin Forey, General, New York Army National Guard, Lt. Colonel Alfred Rothwell, Commanding Officer, First Battalion, 105 Artillery, and Lt. Colonel Joel Brettschneider, Staff Judge Advocate, New York Army National Guard, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York


Kunstler, Kunstler & Hyman, New York City, Steven J. Hyman, New York City, of counsel, Tim Coulter, National Lawyers Guild, New York City, Allan J. Kirschner, New York City, for plaintiffs.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen. of the State of New York, New York City, Robert S. Hammer, Asst. Atty. Gen., of counsel, for defendants.

LASKER, District Judge.

Plaintiffs are enlisted members of the New York Army National Guard who were tried and convicted by a summary court-martial and sentenced to 25 days in jail and a $25 fine for allegedly displaying peace signs during last year's Memorial Day parade.

Plaintiffs now move, pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendants from executing an arrest warrant to incarcerate plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have also requested the convocation of a three-judge court to determine the constitutionality of the New York Code of Military Justice as applied to plaintiffs and, more particularly, of the several summary court-martial provisions thereof pursuant to which plaintiffs were tried, convicted and sentenced. Defendants have moved for an order dismissing the complaint or alternatively for summary judgment in their favor.

This action allegedly arises under the First, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jurisdiction is predicated on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(3) and (4), 2201 and 2202.

Plaintiffs Richard Miller and Jeffrey Greenstein, both residents of New York City, are members of the organized militia of the State of New York, having enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in April 1967 and October 1965, respectively. Both men completed their four months active duty training (basic training) in 1967 and have since returned to civilian life except for attendance at bi-weekly required drills at the Armory and annual two-week summer camps. They are presently assigned to B Battery, 1st Battalion, 105th Artillery, New York Army National Guard.

On May 30, 1970, plaintiffs were participating with their unit in a Memorial Day parade along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, New York. During the parade, while riding in the back of their trucks, plaintiffs displayed printed signs bearing the legend "National Guardsmen Against the War," which signs also contained the well known "peace symbol." At about 10:30 a. m., plaintiffs' signs were confiscated by Captain John F. Boyle, who had apparently noticed their signs when he observed several civilian bystanders become excited and start towards plaintiffs' trucks. When the parade concluded at about 11:30 a. m., plaintiffs returned to the Armory and were reprimanded by Captain Boyle for their actions. Then, apparently without advising them of the possibility of any punishment, see § 130.31, New York Military Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 36, the captain proceeded to ask plaintiffs whether they were aware that an order had been given earlier that morning not to carry any signs in the parade or to make any "gestures," to which both plaintiffs replied in the negative. The facts beyond these are in substantial dispute.

While it is clear that plaintiffs were thereafter directed to report to Captain John J. Hourigan, Jr., the commanding officer of their Battery, the parties disagree as to whether, prior to questioning, Captain Hourigan ever informed plaintiffs of their rights to silence, counsel, and against self-incrimination, and as to whether at this point plaintiffs actually acknowledged having heard their commanding officer's order not to display signs during the parade. Thereafter, charges and specifications, of which plaintiffs apparently never received written copies,1 were drawn up by Captain Hourigan accusing plaintiffs of having violated §§ 130.88 and 130.115 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.2

At about 1:00 p. m. of the same day, plaintiffs were arraigned before summary court-martial officer Major John A. Buonaiuto, Jr. Here, too, the parties differ in several significant respects in their recollection of the events which transpired at the court-martial proceeding itself. The general areas of their disagreement, the details of which are not critical to the disposition of the instant motions, concern: whether plaintiffs were ever advised of their right to civilian counsel at their own expense and of their right to an adjournment in order to obtain such; whether the charges and specifications against plaintiffs were ever read or presented to the accused, and, if so, whether these and all other statements made by the summary court-martial officer were read at a normal conversational speed so as to be easily understandable; whether plaintiffs were advised of the maximum punishments allowable under the State Code in a summary court-martial; whether, in fact, any witnesses (namely, Captains Hourigan and Boyle) were ever called to testify against plaintiffs and, if so, whether plaintiffs were given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine such witnesses; and finally, and perhaps most importantly, whether plaintiffs were advised of their right to plead guilty or not guilty and whether plaintiffs in fact did, as defendants maintain and plaintiffs vehemently deny, plead guilty to all of the charges and specifications against them.

In any event, it is undisputed that at the conclusion of the proceeding Major Buonaiuto sentenced both of the accused to confinement in the Civil Jail of the City of New York for 25 days and a fine of $25. Following the court-martial, the findings and sentence of that court were automatically reviewed by both the convening authority (the Battalion Commander), defendant Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Rothwell, and by the supervisory authority, defendant Major General Martin Forey, Commanding General, 42nd Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard, and the sentences ordered into execution. This appellate review was carried out, as is the custom under the New York Military Law, on the basis of the court record below and without the knowledge or participation of the accused.3 Similarly, it is not disputed that prior to bringing on this action plaintiffs were offered one further military review of their conviction, this time by the Staff Judge Advocate, defendant Lieutenant-Colonel Joel H. Brettschneider, pursuant to the discretionary review provisions of Regulation 8, Division of Military and Naval Affairs of the State of New York, para. 74(c). Plaintiffs chose to decline this additional offer of review as being in their opinion meaningless, unrequired (by the New York Code of Military Justice), and unsatisfactory to the achievement of full relief.

Thereafter, a warrant was executed for plaintiffs' arrest, at which point plaintiffs instituted the instant action and obtained, by order to show cause, the temporary restraining order against their arrest.

Plaintiffs attack the constitutionality of their summary court-martial conviction on numerous grounds. First, they argue that the summary court-martial proceeding itself, whereby a single military officer acts as judge, jury, prosecutor and defense counsel, and which allegedly denies an accused other basic requirements of due process of law, violates the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.4 Second, plaintiffs urge that, even assuming in general the constitutionality of the summary court-martial proceeding, the military can exercise no court-martial jurisdiction whatsoever over National Guardsmen (like plaintiffs) not on active duty.5 Third, plaintiffs challenge, on equal protection and federal supremacy grounds, the constitutionality of § 130.20(b) of the New York Code of Military Justice, which affords to persons on active state duty, but not to those on inactive duty, the right to object to trial by summary court-martial and to be tried instead (unless they have previously been offered and have refused non-judicial punishment under the provisions of § 130.15) by special or general court-martial, thereby becoming eligible for the appointment of defense counsel pursuant to § 130.27(a) of the Code. Plaintiffs also suggest that their summary court-martial was jurisdictionally defective in that the charges and specifications to which they allegedly pleaded guilty and for which they were convicted, namely, violations of §§ 130.88 and 130.115 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, do not exist as such in that Code.6 Finally, plaintiffs contend that the summary court-martial officer exceeded the bounds of his authority by sentencing plaintiffs to both 25 days in jail and $25 fine, thereby violating paramount federal law which apparently permits such punishments only in the alternative.

Despite the obvious weightiness of at least some of these constitutional claims, see infra, the court is required to decline jurisdiction in the instant case. It is settled law that the Civil Rights statute cannot be used by a state prisoner to circumvent established rules of comity and the requirement of the federal statute that habeas corpus shall not be granted unless it appears that the applicant has "exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Smartt v. Avery, 411 F.2d 408 (6th Cir. 1969); Greene v. State of New York, 281 F. Supp. 579 (S.D.N.Y.1967); Lombardi v. Peace, 259 F.Supp. 222 (S.D.N.Y.1966). Yet, if this court were to assume jurisdiction here, such circumvention, with its consequent abrasive...

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