Tatum v. Laird

Decision Date27 April 1971
Docket NumberNo. 24203.,24203.
Citation444 F.2d 947
PartiesArlo TATUM, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, et al., Appellants, v. Melvin R. LAIRD, Secretary of Defense, et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Mr. Frank Askin, Newark, N. J., of the bar of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court, with whom Messrs. Melvin L. Wulf, New York City, and Lawrence Speiser, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellants. Mrs. Hope Beth Eastman, Washington, D. C., also entered an appearance for appellants.

Mr. Robert L. Keuch, Atty., Department of Justice, with whom Messrs. J. Walter Yeagley, Asst. Atty. Gen., at the time the brief was filed, Kevin T. Maroney and George W. Calhoun, Attys., Department of Justice, were on the brief, for appellees. Mr. Benjamin Flannagan, Atty., Department of Justice, also entered an appearance for appellees.

Before TAMM, MacKINNON and WILKEY, Circuit Judges.

WILKEY, Circuit Judge:

On 17 February 1970, appellants, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, filed suit challenging the legality of what appellants term "surveillance of lawful civilian political activity by the U.S. Army," which appellees describe as "gathering by lawful means, * * * maintaining and using in their intelligence activities, any information relating to potential or actual civil disturbances or street demonstrations." Appellants sought a declaratory judgment that the Army's present conduct is unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, concomitantly an injunction forbidding future similar activity, and the destruction of all such data hitherto illegally obtained. The United States District Court denied the requested relief and granted appellees' motion to dismiss on the basis of pleadings, affidavits, and oral argument, without testimony of witnesses.

Appellants claim that the Army's intelligence work involves undercover operations by military agents within the civilian community and organizations, maintenance of records at over a dozen regional and national record centers, and distribution to military units and to criminal investigative agencies of lists describing individuals and organizations who have publicly objected to governmental policies. Appellants claim that these domestic activities of the Army go far beyond any legitimate military need, exceed the Army's statutory authority, inhibit political participation and debate, and deprive appellants and others similarly situated of the constitutional rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments, i. e., the right to free speech and association, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right of privacy.

Appellees assert the constitutional and statutory authority and duty of the President to use such of the Armed Forces as he deems necessary to suppress any insurrection or domestic violence, and point to Defense Department directives regarding the planning for and employment of military resources in the event of civil disturbances, under which one of the responsibilities of the Army is to provide "essential planning, operational and intelligence data to the national military command center and to military service command centers on a timely basis to insure that the national command authorities and appropriate military service command authorities are adequately informed."

For reasons stated hereafter, we find that this court and the District Court have jurisdiction, that there is a justiciable controversy, and that appellants have stated a claim in relation thereto. We therefore remand the case to the District Court for ascertaining essential relevant facts and the determination thereupon of whether any rights of the appellants have been infringed by any actions of the appellees which may be proved.


Appellants' complaint in the District Court alleged jurisdiction to be based upon the existence of a federal question as contemplated by 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and the requisite $10,000 in controversy. On this appeal1 the Government contests the allegation of jurisdictional amount, contending that:

There is no evidence in the record that any of the plaintiffs have a claim in fact for any amount of money, much less a claim for an amount in excess of $10,000.

In response to this argument, appellants in essence admit that their claim is not capable of valuation in monetary terms, but argue essentially that where a challenge to a claimed deprivation of fundamental constitutional rights of intangible value is involved, the purposes for the jurisdictional amount requirement2 are inapplicable and that such requirement should therefore not be applied to defeat federal jurisdiction. While there have been mounting expressions of judicial concern over this seeming gap, caused by the jurisdictional amount requirement, in the power of the federal courts to entertain federal question cases of this nature, we find it unnecessary to reach this question in the instant case.3

As we recently held in Peoples v. United States Department of Agriculture:4

The District Court for the District of Columbia has an independent source of jurisdiction in the legislation, passed by Congress, and codified in the District of Columbia Code, 11 D.C. Code § 521, which gives that court general equity jurisdiction, and venue where either party is a resident or found within the District of Columbia. This permits actions for declaratory judgment as well as injunction to be maintained against those whose office in the Federal Government establishes their official residence in the District. Stark v. Wickard, 321 U.S. 288, 64 S.Ct. 559, 88 L.Ed. 733 (1944); Nestor v. Hershey 138 U.S.App.D.C. 73, 425 F.2d 504, at 521-523 (1969).5

Furthermore, we note that since the Government did not contest the existence of the alleged jurisdictional amount in the District Court, appellants had no opportunity to attempt to sustain their allegation that $10,000 was in controversy, an endeavor at which they might well be successful under the doctrine that, particularly where purely injunctive relief is sought, the amount in controversy may be measured by either "the value of the right sought to be gained by the plaintiff * * * or the cost of enforcing that right to the defendant. * * *"6 In the instant case, it seems likely that if all the relief sought by appellants were granted, including enjoining the operation of the Army's civilian intelligence system and the production and destruction of all records pertaining thereto "maintained by any and all military agencies within the United States and overseas," the cost to the Army of complying with such a decree might well exceed $10,000.

Thus even apart from the applicability of 11 D.C.Code § 521, since we have found as detailed subsequently that appellants have otherwise stated an adequate and justiciable claim for relief, we would be constrained to permit appellants on remand the opportunity to meet their burden of satisfying the District Court that the requisite amount is in controversy.7

For the foregoing reasons we reject the Government's claim that the dismissal should be affirmed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.8


In recent years the Army and the National Guard have been called upon to act to preserve domestic peace against violent protests leading to civil disorders, a role for the military which was not unforeseen in our Constitution.9 Many violent protests were aimed directly at military functions and installations themselves, as in ransacking Selective Service offices, barring troop and supply trains by prostrate bodies on the tracks, unlawful attempts to enter military bases or demonstrations thereon, and harassment of defense-oriented businesses. In executing other missions the Army confronted riotous mobs protesting matters unrelated to military operations, for example the tragic riots in Detroit, Newark, and other of our large cities. During the period 1967-68 the National Guard was called upon eighty-three times and the Army four times to quell cases of civil disorder.

While these statistics relate to the period of civil disorders during which the Army operated the intelligence system which appellants complain violated their rights, we also note that in the period beginning with the use of the Army paratroops at Little Rock in 1957 the Army has been called upon under related constitutional and statutory provisions to preserve civil peace in order that certain groups might exercise their constitutional rights. The moral of this is that no matter who the persons or groups are giving voice to their protests against the established order, civil disturbance of one kind or another is likely to ensue; and, irrespective of the content or cause of the protest, the military need certain intelligence information to perform their mission "to enforce the laws of the United States" or "suppress * * * insurrection."10

In performing this type function the Army is essentially a police force or the back-up of a local police force. To quell disturbances or to prevent further disturbances the Army needs the same tools and, most importantly, the same information to which local police forces have access. Since the Army is sent into territory almost invariably unfamiliar to most soldiers and their commanders, their need for information is likely to be greater than that of the hometown policeman.

No logical argument can be made for compelling the military to use blind force. When force is employed it should be intelligently directed, and this depends upon having reliable information — in time. As Chief Justice John Marshall said of Washington, "A general must be governed by his intelligence and must regulate his measures by his information. It is his duty to obtain correct information; * * *."11 So we take it as undeniable that the military, i. e., the Army,...

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