HEALY, Circuit Judge.
Appellant was indicted for a violation of § 12 of the Selective Service Act of 1948, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix, § 462, by refusing to submit to induction into the armed forces. With his consent he was tried to the court without a jury and was adjudged guilty. One of the questions he raises on the appeal, and the only one we shall consider, is whether he was accorded his procedural rights in respect of being classified anew after a personal appearance before his local board.
The pertinent Selective Service Regulations in effect at the time are §§ 1624.1 and 1624.2. The first of these provides in part that "Every registrant, after his classification is determined by the local board * *, shall have an opportunity to appear in person before the member or members of the local board designated for the purpose if he files a written request therefor within 10 days after the local board has mailed a notice of classification (SSS Form No. 110) to him." Section 1624.2(b), entitled "Appearance before local board," states that at any such appearance the registrant may discuss his classification, may point out the class or classes in which he thinks he should have been placed, may direct attention to any information in his file which he believes the local board has overlooked or to which it has not given sufficient weight, and may present such further information as he believes will assist the board in determining his proper classification. Subdivision (c) of this section reads: "After the registrant has appeared before the member or members of the local board designated for the purpose, the local board shall consider the new information which it receives and shall again classify the registrant in the same manner as if he had never before been classified." Subdivision (d) requires that after such an appearance the board shall, as soon as practicable after the registrant is again classified, mail him notice of classification (SSS Form No. 110). And (e), the final subdivision of the section, provides that "Each such classification shall be followed by the same right of appeal as in the case of an original classification."
It is essential to an understanding of the problem here presented that we review at considerable length the history of appellant's case as gathered from his selective service file, that being the only evidence introduced on behalf of the Government. We find nothing elsewhere in the record to combat the evidence contained in the file, or to refute the inferences drawable from it.
Appellant's classification questionnaire was submitted to his local board on September 26, 1948. At the time he made it out he signed Series XIV — Conscientious Objection to War, Form No. 100, in which the registrant states that by reason of religious training and belief he is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form, and requests that he be furnished the special form for conscientious objectors (Form No. 150) to be completed and returned to the local board for its consideration. This form was not supplied appellant until a time subsequent to August 2, 1950, on which date he was classified as 1-A. Upon receiving notice of the classification he requested that the board grant him a personal appearance; and he was advised by mail that he might appear at a board meeting to be held September
It should be remarked at this juncture that nowhere in the file, nor in the notations on the back of the questionnaire,
On November 28, 1950 appellant wrote the board protesting the induction order, and pointing out that he had received no notice of classification since the interview. Then followed a series of events suggestive of the probability that the appeal board and the state director of the selective service system were alike unadvised of the inaction of the local board in the respects above indicated, save only as to its failure to notify the registrant of his classification. On December 4, 1950 the state director wrote the local board that the induction order had been canceled because of the failure to give notice of classification following the registrant's personal appearance. The letter closed by saying "Kindly issue the registrant notice of the cancellation of his induction and advise him that his case is being forwarded for appeal review." The local board thereupon sent the registrant a form letter stating that the order to report for induction was postponed "Indefinite. Pending Appeal." A notation on the back of the questionnaire indicates that on December 6, 1950 the file was forwarded to the appeal board.
On December 20, 1950 the appeal board wrote the local board as follows:
On December 27, 1950 the local board wrote appellant the following letter:
Appellant filled out and returned Form 150, explaining at length under the appropriate headings the nature and source of his religious training and beliefs, and answering questions concerning his participation in religious organizations.
Under date of January 23, 1951 the local board wrote the appeal board as follows:
It may be noted here that this communication is devoid of intimation that the local board had considered the matters contained in Form 150, or that it had taken any action to classify the registrant in light of its contents, or to continue in effect the prior classification. The impression one gets from reading it is that the local board regarded the whole matter of classifying the registrant as having been taken over by the appeal board, and that in obtaining the form it was acting merely as agent of the latter. The absence of any notation on the back of the questionnaire, other than that the file had been returned to the appeal board, tends strongly to confirm this impression.
On June 7, 1951 the appeal board, after the customary steps had been taken, classified appellant in Class 1-A, and he was so notified. On July 5 following he was directed to report for induction. He did so but concededly refused to be inducted.
So far as we are aware it is the uniform view of the courts passing on the subject that failure to accord a registrant the procedural rights provided by the Regulations invalidates the action of the draft board. As to failure to observe the requirements of § 1624.2, here involved, see United States v. Stiles, 3 Cir., 169 F.2d 455; Martin v. United States, 4 Cir., 190 F.2d 775. With the above view of the law we are in accord. We are also in full agreement with the limitations on that principle expressed by Judge Parker in the Martin case, supra, namely that procedural irregularities or omissions which do not result in prejudice to the registrant are to be disregarded.
The significant disregard of the registrant's procedural rights in this instance lies in the fact that upon his personal appearance after classification he presented for the first time evidentiary matter in support of his formal claim to the conscientious objector status embodied in his questionnaire, and no action appears to have been taken to classify him in light either of this evidence or of the showing
Classification by the local board is an indispensable step in the process of induction. The registrant is entitled to have his claims considered and acted upon by these local bodies the membership of which is composed of residents of his own community. An underlying concept of the Selective Service System is that those subject to call for service in the armed forces are to be classified by their neighbors — people who are in a position to know best their backgrounds, their situation and activities.
But, it is suggested, a presumption of regularity or of the due performance of duty attends official action; and it should be presumed in this instance not only that the local board considered the claims of the registrant, but that in light of them it took action to continue in effect his original 1-A classification. We think the court may not indulge the presumption, at least in the latter respect, in the condition of the record in the case. Our reasons for so believing have already been sufficiently developed.
The judgment is reversed.
In another form, called the "Individual Appeal Record," the nature and dates of the registrant's classifications both by the local board and by the appeal board are entered. So far as concerns the local board this record shows only that appellant was classified 1-A on August 2, 1950. It is barren of intimation that the classification was continued without change after the personal hearing.