419 U.S. 938 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WINDSOR v. U.S. , 419 U.S. 938 (1974)

419 U.S. 938

No. 73-6655.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 21, 1974

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

The petitioner, convicted of failure to report for induction, 50 App. U.S.C. 462(a), challenges the induction order on the ground that he was improperly denied exemption from selective service as a conscientious objector. Petitioner completed high school under a student deferment in 1969. In January 1970, he was reclassified I-A and was ordered to report for a pre-induction physical examination the following October. In January 1971, petitioner filed an application for reclassification as a conscientious objector. His local selective service board rejected this claim advising petitioner by letter:

    'Your claim as a conscientious objector was considered by the Board on February 12, 1971, and in their opinion your professed belief in opposition to war is not a compelling or controlling force in your life, but is simply an expedient to avoid military service at this time and that you are not sincere in your belief.'

Petitioner appealed to an Appeal Board, which affirmed without opinion the local board's denial of exemption. The Court of Appeals, applying a rule announced in United States v. Stetter, 445 F.2d 472 (CA5 1971), that when an applicant makes a prima facie case for exemption as a conscientious objector the board must give a statement of reasons for rejection of the application, construed the local board's letter to petitioner as a finding of insincerity of petitioner's asserted beliefs. The court then concluded that a finding of insincerity could be based upon the fact that petitioner waited for more than a year after his reclassification as I-A to file his application for exemption and did so only after passing

Page 419 U.S. 938 , 939

his pre-induction physical examination. Accordingly, the court found that the board's 'reason' had a basis in the record and affirmed petitioner's conviction.

Elsewhere I have expressed my view that an applicant for exemption as a conscientious objector is entitled, under Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, to a hearing before a local board on his claim. Fein v. Selective Service System, 405 U.S. 365, 382 ( 1972) (dissenting opinion). A statement of reasons accompanying a decision adverse to the applicant is no less a requirement of due process. Without a statement of reasons there is simply no way to ascertain whether the board has acted within its powers as prescribed by law. [Footnote 1] See Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 271 (1970); Joseph v. United States, 405 U.S. 1006 (1972) ( dissenting opinion). The only statement afforded petitioner is contained in the local board's February 1973 letter, a document insufficient in two respects to sustain the board's denial of exemption.

First, the board's statement that petitioner's belief 'is not a compelling or controlling force in your life' gives little confidence that the board applied the correct legal standard for exemption under 50 App.U. S.C. 456(j). The statute authorizes exemption for any person 'who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.' In Clay v. United States, 403 U.S. 698, 700 (1971), we said:

    'In order to qualify for classification as a conscientious objector, a registrant must satisfy three [419 U.S. 938 , 940]

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