O'Callahan v. Parker
395 U.S. 258 (1969)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258 (1969)

O'Callahan v. Parker

No. 646

Argued January 23, 1969

Decided June 2, 1969

395 U.S. 258

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner, a United States Army sergeant, while on an evening pass from his army post in Hawaii and in civilian attire, broke into a hotel room, assaulted a girl, and attempted rape. Following his apprehension, city police, on learning that petitioner was in the Armed Forces, delivered him to the military police. After interrogation, petitioner confessed. He was charged with attempted rape, housebreaking, and assault with attempt to rape, in violation of Articles 80, 130, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, tried by a court-martial, convicted on all counts, and sentenced. His conviction was affirmed by the Army Board of Review, and thereafter by the United States Court of Military Appeals. Petitioner later filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court claiming that the court-martial was without jurisdiction to try him for nonmilitary offenses committed off-post while on an evening pass. The District Court denied relief and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: A crime, to be under military jurisdiction, must be service-connected, and since petitioner's crimes were not, he could not be tried by court-martial, but was entitled to a civilian trial with the benefits of an indictment by a grand jury and trial by jury. Pp. 395 U. S. 261-274.

(a) Art. I, § 8, cl. 14, of the Constitution recognizes that military discipline requires military courts in which not all the procedural safeguards of Art. III trials need apply, and the Fifth Amendment exempts "cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger" from the requirement of prosecution by indictment and the right to trial by jury. See Ex parte Quirin,317 U. S. 1, 317 U. S. 40. Pp. 395 U. S. 261-262.

(b) If the case does not arise "in the land or naval forces," the accused gets (1) the benefit of an indictment by a grand jury and (2) a trial by jury before a civilian court as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and Art. III, § 2. P. 395 U. S. 262.

(c) A court-martial (which is tried in accordance with military traditions and procedures by a panel of officers empowered to act by two-thirds vote presided over by a military law officer) is not

Page 395 U. S. 259

an independent instrument of justice, but a specialized part of an overall system by which military discipline is preserved. Pp. 395 U. S. 263-265.

(d) A civilian trial is conducive to the protection of individual rights, while a military trial is marked by retributive justice. P. 395 U. S. 266.

(e) The fact that petitioner, at the time of his offense and of his court-martial, was a member of the Armed Forces does not necessarily mean that he was triable by court-martial. Pp. 395 U. S. 266-267.

(f) In England before the American Revolution, and in this country, military trials of soldiers for civilian offenses have been viewed with suspicion. Pp. 395 U. S. 268-271.

(g) To be under military jurisdiction, a crime must be service-connected, lest all members of the armed services be deprived of the benefits of grand jury indictment and jury trial. Pp. 395 U. S. 272-273.

(h) There was not even a remote connection between petitioner's crimes and his military duties, and the offenses were peacetime offenses, committed in American territory which did not involve military authority, security, or property. Pp. 395 U. S. 273-274.

390 F.2d 360, reversed.

MR JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, then a sergeant in the United States Army, was stationed in July, 1956, at Fort Shafter, Oahu, in the Territory of Hawaii. On the night of July 20, while on an evening pass, petitioner and a friend left the post dressed in civilian clothes and went into Honolulu. After a few beers in the bar of a hotel, petitioner entered the residential part of the hotel, where

Page 395 U. S. 260

he broke into the room of a young girl and assaulted and attempted to rape her. While fleeing from her room onto Waikiki Beach, he was apprehended by a hotel security officer, who delivered him to the Honolulu city police for questioning. After determining that he was a member of the Armed Forces, the city police delivered petitioner to the military police. After extensive interrogation, petitioner confessed, and was placed in military confinement.

Petitioner was charged with attempted rape, housebreaking,and assault with intent to rape, in violation of Articles 80, 130, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. [Footnote 1] He was tried by court-martial, convicted on all counts, and given a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment at hard labor, forfeiture of all pay and

Page 395 U. S. 261

allowances, and dishonorable discharge. His conviction was affirmed by the Army Board of Review and, subsequently, by the United States Court of Military Appeals.

Under confinement at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleging, inter alia, that the court-martial was without jurisdiction to try him for nonmilitary offenses committed off-post while on an evening pass. The District Court denied relief without considering the issue on the merits, and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. This Court granted certiorari limited to the question:

"Does a court-martial, held under the Articles of War, Tit. 10, U.S.C. § 801 et seq., have jurisdiction to try a member of the Armed Forces who is charged with commission of a crime cognizable in a civilian court and having no military significance, alleged to have been committed off-post and while on leave, thus depriving him of his constitutional rights to indictment by a grand jury and trial by a petit jury in a civilian court?"

393 U.S. 822.

The Constitution gives Congress power to "make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," Art. I, § 8, cl. 14, and it recognizes that the exigencies of military discipline require the existence of a special system of military courts in which not all of the specific procedural protections deemed essential in Art. III trials need apply. The Fifth Amendment specifically exempts "cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger" from the requirement of prosecution by indictment and, inferentially, from the right to trial by jury. (Emphasis supplied.) See Ex parte Quirin,317 U. S. 1, 317 U. S. 40. The result has been the establishment

Page 395 U. S. 262

and development of a system of military justice with fundamental differences from the practices in the civilian courts.

If the case does not arise "in the land or naval forces," then the accused gets first, the benefit of an indictment by a grand jury, and second, a trial by jury before a civilian court, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and by Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution, which provides in part:

"The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury, and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed."

Those civil rights are the constitutional stakes in the present litigation. What we wrote in Toth v. Quarles,350 U. S. 11, 350 U. S. 17-18, is worth emphasis:

"We find nothing in the history or constitutional treatment of military tribunals which entitles them to rank along with Article III courts as adjudicators of the guilt or innocence of people charged with offenses for which they can be deprived of their life, liberty or property. Unlike courts, it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or be ready to fight wars should the occasion arise. But trial of soldiers to maintain discipline is merely incidental to an army's primary fighting function. To the extent that those responsible for performance of this primary function are diverted from it by the necessity of trying cases, the basic fighting purpose of armies is not served. And conceding to military personnel that high degree of honesty and sense of justice which nearly all of them undoubtedly have, it still remains true that military tribunals have not been, and probably never can be, constituted in such way that they can have the same kind of

Page 395 U. S. 263

qualifications that the Constitution has deemed essential to fair trials of civilians in federal courts. For instance, the Constitution does not provide life tenure for those performing judicial functions in military trials. They are appointed by military commanders, and may be removed at will. Nor does the Constitution protect their salaries, as it does judicial salaries. Strides have been made toward making courts-martial less subject to the will of the executive department which appoints, supervises and ultimately controls them. But, from the very nature of things, courts have more independence in passing on the life and liberty of people than do military tribunals."

"Moreover, there is a great difference between trial by jury and trial by selected members of the military forces. It is true that military personnel, because of their training and experience, may be especially competent to try soldiers for infractions of military rules. Such training is no doubt particularly important where an offense charged against a soldier is purely military, such as disobedience of an order, leaving post, etc. But, whether right or wrong, the premise underlying the constitutional method for determining guilt or innocence in federal courts is that laymen are better than specialists to perform this task. This idea is inherent in the institution of trial by jury."

A court-martial is tried not by a jury of the defendant's peers which must decide unanimously, but by a panel of officers [Footnote 2] empowered to act by a two-thirds vote.

Page 395 U. S. 264

The presiding officer at a court-martial is not a judge whose objectivity and independence are protected by tenure and undiminishable salary and nurtured by the Judicial tradition, but is a military law officer. [Footnote 3] Substantially different rules of evidence and procedure apply in military trials. [Footnote 4] Apart from those differences, the suggestion of the possibility of influence on the actions of the court-martial by the officer who convenes it, selects its members and the counsel on both sides, and who usually has direct command authority over its members is a pervasive one in military law, despite strenuous efforts to eliminate the danger. [Footnote 5]

Page 395 U. S. 265

A court-martial is not yet an independent instrument of justice, but remains to a significant degree a specialized part of the overall mechanism by which military discipline is preserved. [Footnote 6]

That a system of specialized military courts, proceeding by practices different from those obtaining in the regular courts and in general less favorable to defendants, is necessary to an effective national defense establishment few would deny. But the justification for such a system rests on the special needs of the military, and history teaches that expansion of military discipline beyond its proper domain carries with it a threat to liberty. This Court, mindful of the genuine need for special military courts, has recognized their propriety in their appropriate sphere, e.g., Burns v. Wilson,346 U. S. 137, but, in examining the reach of their jurisdiction, it has recognized that

"There are dangers lurking in military trials which were sought to be avoided by the Bill of Rights and Article III of our Constitution. Free countries of the world have tried to restrict military tribunals to the narrowest jurisdiction deemed absolutely essential to maintaining discipline among troops in active service. . . ."

"Determining the scope of the constitutional power of Congress to authorize trial by court-martial presents another instance calling for limitation to 'the least possible power adequate to the end proposed.'"

Toth v. Quarles,350 U. S. 11, 350 U. S. 22-23.

While the Court of Military Appeals takes cognizance of some constitutional rights of the accused who are court-martialed, courts-martial as an institution are singularly inept in dealing with the nice subtleties of constitutional law. Article 134, already quoted, punishes

Page 395 U. S. 266

as a crime "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces." Does this satisfy the standards of vagueness as developed by the civil courts? It is not enough to say that a court-martial may be reversed on appeal. One of the benefits of a civilian trial is that the trap of Article 134 may be avoided by a declaratory judgment proceeding or otherwise. See Dombrowski v. Pfister,380 U. S. 479. A civilian trial, in other words, is held in an atmosphere conducive to the protection of individual rights, while a military trial is marked by the age-old manifest destiny of retributive justice. [Footnote 7]

As recently stated:

"None of the travesties of justice perpetrated under the UCMJ is really very surprising, for military law has always been, and continues to be, primarily an instrument of discipline, not justice."

Glasser, Justice and Captain Levy, 12 Columbia Forum 46, 49 (1969).

The mere fact that petitioner was, at the time of his offense and of his court-martial, on active duty in the Armed Forces does not automatically dispose of this case under our prior decisions.

Page 395 U. S. 267

We have held in a series of decisions that court-martial jurisdiction cannot be extended to reach any person not a member of the Armed Forces at the times of both the offense and the trial. Thus, discharged soldiers cannot be court-martialed for offenses committed while in service. Toth v. Quarles,350 U. S. 11. Similarly, neither civilian employees of the Armed Forces overseas, McElroy v. Guagliardo,361 U. S. 281; Grisham v. Hagan,361 U. S. 278; nor civilian dependents of military personnel accompanying them overseas, Kinsella v. Singleton,361 U. S. 234; Reid v. Covert,354 U. S. 1, may be tried by court-martial.

These cases decide that courts-martial have no jurisdiction to try those who are not members of the Armed Forces, no matter how intimate the connection between their offense and the concerns of military discipline. From these cases, the Government invites us to draw the conclusion that, once it is established that the accused is a member of the Armed Forces, lack of relationship between the offense and identifiable military interests is irrelevant to the jurisdiction of a court-martial.

The fact that courts-martial have no jurisdiction over nonsoldiers, whatever their offense, does not necessarily imply that they have unlimited jurisdiction over soldiers, regardless of the nature of the offenses charged. Nor do the cases of this Court suggest any such interpretation. The Government emphasizes that these decisions -- especially Kinsella v. Singleton -- establish that liability to trial by court-martial is a question of "status" --

"whether the accused in the court-martial proceeding is a person who can be regarded as falling within the term 'land and naval Forces.'"

361 U.S. at 361 U. S. 241. But that is merely the beginning of the inquiry, not its end. "Status" is necessary for jurisdiction; but it does not follow that ascertainment of "status" completes the inquiry, regardless of the nature, time, and place of the offense.

Page 395 U. S. 268

Both in England prior to the American Revolution and in our own national history, military trial of soldiers committing civilian offenses has been viewed with suspicion. [Footnote 8] Abuses of the court-martial power were an important grievance of the parliamentary forces in the English constitutional crises of the 17th century. The resolution of that conflict came with the acceptance by William and Mary of the Bill of Rights in 1689, which established that, in the future, Parliament, not the Crown, would have the power to define the jurisdiction of courts-martial. 1 W. & M., Sess. 2, c. 2. The 17th century conflict over the proper role of courts-martial in the enforcement of the domestic criminal law was not, however, merely a dispute over what organ of government had jurisdiction. It also involved substantive disapproval of the general use of military courts for trial of ordinary crimes. [Footnote 9]

Parliament, possessed at last of final power in the matter, was quick to authorize, subject to annual renewal, maintenance of a standing army and to give authority for trial by court-martial of certain crimes closely related to military discipline. But Parliament's new power over courts-martial was exercised only very sparingly to ordain military jurisdiction over acts which were also offenses at common law. The first of the annual mutiny acts, 1 W. & M., c. 5, set the tone. It established the general rule that

"noe Man may be forejudged of Life or Limbe, or subjected to any kinde of punishment by Martiall

Page 395 U. S. 269

Law or in any other manner than by the Judgement of his Peeres and according to the knowne and Established Laws of this Realme."

And it proceeded to grant courts-martial jurisdiction only over mutiny, sedition, and desertion. In all other respects, military personnel were to be subject to the "Ordinary Processe of Law."

The jurisdiction of British courts-martial over military offenses which were also common law felonies was from time to time extended, [Footnote 10] but, with the exception of one year, [Footnote 11] there was never any general military jurisdiction to try soldiers for ordinary crimes committed in the British Isles. It was, therefore, the rule in Britain at the time of the American Revolution that a soldier could not be tried by court-martial for a civilian offense committed in Britain; instead military officers were required to use their energies and office to insure that the accused soldier would be tried before a civil court. [Footnote 12] Evasion

Page 395 U. S. 270

and erosion of the principle that crimes committed by soldiers should be tried according to regular judicial procedure in civil, not military, courts, if any were available, were among the grievances protested by the American Colonists. [Footnote 13]

Early American practice followed the British model. [Footnote 14] The Continental Congress, in enacting articles of war In 1776, emphasized the importance of military authority cooperating to insure that soldiers who committed crimes were brought to justice. But it is clear from the context

Page 395 U. S. 271

of the provision it enacted that it expected the trials would be in civil courts. [Footnote 15] The "general article," which punished

"[all] crimes not capital, and all disorders and neglects, which officers and soldiers may be guilty of, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, though not mentioned in the foregoing articles of war,"

was interpreted to embrace only crimes the commission of which had some direct impact on military discipline. Winthrop *1123. While practice was not altogether consistent, during the 19th century, court-martial convictions for ordinary civil crimes were from time to time set aside by the reviewing authority on the ground that the charges recited only a violation of the general criminal law, and failed to state a military offense. Id. *1124, nn. 82, 88. [Footnote 16]

During the Civil War, Congress provided for military trial of certain civil offenses [Footnote 17] without regard to their effect on order and discipline, but the act applied only "in time of war, insurrection, or rebellion." Act of Mar. 3, 1863, c. 75, § 30, 12 Stat. 736; Rev.Stat. § 1342, Art. 58 (1874). In 1916, on the eve of World War I, the Articles of War were revised, 39 Stat. 650, to provide for military trial, even in peacetime, of certain specific civilian

Page 395 U. S. 272

crimes committed by persons "subject to military law" and the general article, Art. 96, was modified to provide for military trial of "all crimes or offenses not capital." In 1950, the Uniform Code of Military Justice extended military jurisdiction to capital crimes as well. We have concluded that the crime, to be under military jurisdiction, must be service-connected, lest "cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger," [Footnote 18] as used

Page 395 U. S. 273

in the Fifth Amendment, be expanded to deprive every member of the armed services of the benefits of an indictment by a grand jury and a trial by a jury of his peers. The power of Congress to make "Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," Art. I, § 8, cl. 14, need not be sparingly read in order to preserve those two important constitutional guarantees. For it is assumed that an express grant of general power to Congress is to be exercised in harmony with express guarantees of the Bill of Rights. We were advised on oral argument that Art. 134 is construed by the military to give it power to try a member of the armed services for income tax evasion. This article has been called "a catch-all" that "incorporates almost every Federal penal statute into the Uniform Code." R. Everett, Military Justice in the Armed Forces of the United States 68-69 (1956). The catalogue of cases put within reach of the military is indeed long, and we see no way of saving to servicemen and servicewomen in any case the benefits of indictment and of trial by jury if we conclude that this petitioner was properly tried by court-martial.

In the present case, petitioner was properly absent from his military base when he committed the crimes with which he is charged. There was no connection -- not even the remotest one -- between his military duties and the crimes in question. The crimes were not committed on a military post or enclave; nor was the person whom he attacked performing any duties relating to the military. Moreover, Hawaii, the situs of the crime, is not an armed camp under military control, as are some of our far-flung outposts.

Finally, we deal with peacetime offenses, not with authority stemming from the war power. Civil courts were open. The offenses were committed within our territorial limits, not in the occupied zone of a foreign country.

Page 395 U. S. 274

The offenses did not involve any question of the flouting of military authority, the security of a military post or the integrity of military property. [Footnote 19]

We have accordingly decided that, since petitioner's crimes were not service-connected, he could not be tried by court-martial, but rather was entitled to trial by the civilian courts.

Reversed.

[Footnote 1]

Article 80 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (10 U.S.C. § 880) provides in part:

"(a) An act, done with specific intent to commit an offense under this chapter, amounting to more than mere preparation and tending, even though failing, to effect its commission, is an attempt to commit that offense."

"(b) Any person subject to this chapter who attempts to commit any offense punishable by this chapter shall be punished as a court-martial may direct, unless otherwise specifically prescribed."

Article 130 (10 U.S.C. § 930) provides:

"Any person subject to this chapter who unlawfully enters the building or structure of another with intent to commit a criminal offense therein is guilty of housebreaking and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."

Article 134 (10 U.S.C. § 934) provides:

"Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court."

[Footnote 2]

Under Art. 25(c) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 825(c), at least. one-third of the members of the court-martial trying an enlisted man are required to be enlisted men if the accused requests that enlisted personnel be included in the court-martial. In practice, usually only senior enlisted personnel, i.e., noncommissioned officers, are selected. See United States v. Crawford, 15 U.S.C.M.A. 31, 35 C.M.R. 3, motion for leave to file petition for certiorari denied, 380 U.S. 970. See generally Schiesser, Trial by Peers: Enlisted Members on Courts-Martial, 15 Catholic U.L.Rev. 171 (1966).

[Footnote 3]

At the time petitioner was tried, a general court-martial was presided over by a "law officer," who was required to be a member of the bar and certified by the Judge Advocate General for duty as a law officer. U.C.M.J. Art. 26(a). The "law officer" could be a direct subordinate of the convening authority. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States, 1951,

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.