MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 6 (j) of the Selective Service Act
It is the Department's refusal to disclose the entire FBI reports which precipitates the issues now before us. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that this procedure violates a registrant's rights under the Selective Service Act.
Each of the respondents claims to be a conscientious objector entitled to total exemption from military service. Each has been convicted of wilfully refusing to submit to induction in the armed forces of the United States.
We think that the Court of Appeals erred. We think that the statutory scheme for review, within the selective service system, of exemptions claimed by conscientious
Respondents urge that this is not enough. The argument rides hard upon the word "hearing" in § 6 (j). It
The statute does entitle the registrant to a "hearing," and of course no sham substitute will meet this requirement; but we do not think that the word "hearing"— when put in the context of the whole scheme for review set forth in § 6 (j)—comprehends the formal and litigious procedures which respondents' interpretation would attribute to it. Instead, the word takes its meaning in this instance from an analysis of the precise function
The duty to classify—to grant or deny exemptions to conscientious objectors—rests upon the draft boards, local and appellate, and not upon the Department of Justice. The registrant must first look to his local board for the relief he claims; he must convince this body— composed of representatives of his own community—of the depth and sincerity of his convictions. He must fill out forms, calculated to put him to the test;
If the local board denies the claim, the responsibility for review, if sought, falls upon the appeal board. The Department of Justice takes no action which is decisive. Its duty is to advise, to render an auxiliary service to the appeal board in this difficult class of cases. Congress was under no compulsion to supply this auxiliary service—to provide for a more exhaustive processing of the conscientious objector's appeal. Registrants who claim exemption for some reason other than conscientious objection, and whose claims are denied, are entitled to no "hearing" before the Department. Yet in this special class of cases, involving as it does difficult analyses of facts and individualized
Accordingly, the standards of procedure to which the Department must adhere are simply standards which will enable it to discharge its duty to forward sound advice, as expeditiously as possible, to the appeal board. Certainly, this is an important and delicate responsibility, but we do not think the statute requires the Department to entertain an all-out collateral attack at the hearing on the testimony obtained in its prehearing investigation.
Respondents urge that they have a right to such a procedure under the Fifth Amendment. We cannot agree.
The Selective Service Act is a comprehensive statute designed to provide an orderly, efficient and fair procedure to marshal the available manpower of the country, to impose a common obligation of military service on all physically fit young men. It is a valid exercise of the war power. It is calculated to function—it functions today—in times of peril. Even so, Congress took care to provide special treatment for those who could not
It is always difficult to devise procedures which will be adequate to do justice in cases where the sincerity of another's religious convictions is the ultimate factual issue. It is especially difficult when these procedures must be geared to meet the imperative needs of mobilization and national vigilance—when there is no time for "litigious interruption." Falbo v. United States, 320 U.S. 549, 554 (1944). Under the circumstances presented, we cannot hold that the statute, as we construe it, violates the Constitution.
The judgments are
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS join, dissenting.
That so strong a court and one so strong in literary endowment —Swan, C. J., Learned Hand and Frank, JJ.— should rely, as did the Court of Appeals in this case, 200 F.2d 46, 49-50, on the opinion of a District Judge, impressively attests the persuasiveness of that opinion. Chief Judge Hincks has stated also for me the compelling reasons why the refusal to make available the FBI report on a registrant claiming exemption as a conscientious
There is a note of uneasiness in the Court's recognition of the difficulty of "devising" procedures "adequate to do justice in cases where the sincerity of another's religious convictions" is in issue. Courts are, no doubt, closely circumscribed in "devising" such procedures where Congress has, with sufficient clarity, bound the allowable judicial discretion in applying legislation. And, of course, only within narrow limits may courts reject a procedure, devised by Congress, on constitutional grounds. The Due Process Clause cannot be bent to what a judge may privately think is wisdom in respecting dissident views. But here the Court ought not to feel an impotent uneasiness. It is not called upon to devise a just procedure; merely to apply one. Considering the traditionally high respect that dissent, and particularly religious dissent, has enjoyed in our view of a free society, this Court ought not to reject a construction of congressional language which assures justice in cases where the sincerity of another's religious conviction is at stake and where prison
The suggestion that the registrants in these cases have waived their rights by not asking for "a fair resume" of any adverse evidence in the investigator's report seems to me an instance of keeping the word of promise to the ear and breaking it to the hope. The very purpose of a hearing is to give registrants an opportunity to meet adverse evidence. It makes a mockery of that purpose to suggest that such adverse evidence can be effectively met if its provenance is unknown. Nor is it possible to be confident that a "resume is fair" when one cannot know what it is a resume of. This does not suggest purposeful unfairness, still less, want of zeal. Language is treacherous and the meaning of what is written to no small degree derives from him who reads it. In a country with our moral and material strength the maintenance of fair procedures cannot handicap our security. Every adherence to our moral professions reinforces our strength and therefore our security.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs, dissenting.
I concur in MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER'S opinion and only add a word. The use of statements by informers who need not confront the person under investigation or accusation has such an infamous history that it should be rooted out from our procedure. A hearing at which these faceless people are allowed to present their whispered rumors and yet escape the test and torture of cross-examination is not a hearing in the Anglo-American sense. We should be done with the practice—whether
The full text of § 6 (j) of the Selective Service Act of 1948 reads:
"Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the armed forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form. Religious training and belief in this connection means an individual's belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code. Any person claiming exemption from combatant training and service because of such conscientious objections whose claim is sustained by the local board shall, if he is inducted into the armed forces under this title, be assigned to noncombatant service as defined by the President, or shall, if he is found to be conscientiously opposed to participation in such noncombatant service, be deferred. Any person claiming exemption from combatant training and service because of such conscientious objections shall, if such claim is not sustained by the local board, be entitled to an appeal, to the appropriate appeal board. Upon the filing of such appeal, the appeal board shall refer any such claim to the Department of Justice for inquiry and hearing. The Department of Justice, after appropriate inquiry, shall hold a hearing with respect to the character and good faith of the objections of the person concerned, and such person shall be notified of the time and place of such hearing. The Department of Justice shall, after such hearing, if the objections are found to be sustained, recommend to the appeal board that (1) if the objector is inducted into the armed forces under this title, he shall be assigned to noncombatant service as defined by the President, or (2) if the objector is found to be conscientiously opposed to participation in such noncombatant service, he shall be deferred. If after such hearing the Department of Justice finds that his objections are not sustained, it shall recommend to the appeal board that such objections be not sustained. The appeal board shall, in making its decision, give consideration to, but shall not be bound to follow, the recommendation of the Department of Justice together with the record on appeal from the local board. Each person whose claim for exemption from combatant training and service because of conscientious objections is sustained shall be listed by the local board on a register of conscientious objectors."
There is a dearth of legislative history reflecting discussion in Congress about this phase of the Selective Service Act. The problem was discussed rather briefly during the Committee hearings on the 1940 Act. See Hearings Before the Committee on Military Affairs United States Senate on S. 4164, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., and Hearings Before the Committee on Military Affairs House of Representatives on H. R. 10132, 76th Cong., 3d Sess. Compare H. R. Rep. No. 2903, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., p. 5.
We need not reach that question in these cases because in our view respondents cannot complain of any failure on the part of the Department of Justice to supply them with a summary of the evidence.
Respondent Nugent first indicated to his local board that he would only serve as a noncombatant. Thereafter, when required to submit additional information, he stated that he was opposed to any military service whatsoever. The local board, after a hearing, classified him as 1-A-O which rendered him eligible only for noncombatant military service. He appealed, claiming total exemption. Pursuant to § 6 (j) his case was referred to the Department of Justice.
Instructions mailed to respondent Nugent informed him of his right to "request" the Hearing Officer to "advise" him of the "general nature and character of any evidence" which was "unfavorable" to his claim. Respondent never requested the Hearing Officer for any summary of the FBI investigation. He claims he was misled by the Hearing Officer's secretary who told him that the "files" were "favorable." But respondent made no effort to verify this statement; at no time did he say anything or make any request to the Hearing Officer concerning the FBI report.
Moreover, the Hearing Officer, in his own report on the case, said nothing which would indicate that the secretary's comment was erroneous. He did not purport to base his recommendation on material submitted by the FBI; rather his recommendation seems based upon Nugent's own conduct and testimony at the hearing coupled with the fact that respondent, in his original classification questionnaire, had indicated a willingness to serve as a noncombatant—the classification to which he had been assigned.
An additional statement by a Special Assistant to the Attorney General, forwarding the Hearing Officer's report to the appeal board, also made no mention that there was adverse matter in the FBI report.
No part of the FBI report was transmitted to the appeal board. Thus the record before the appeal board contained no evidence secured by the FBI. In view of this, and in view of his failure to make any request to the Hearing Officer, we think that Nugent was not denied any right.
Nor was respondent Packer denied his right to be advised of the general nature of any evidence in the FBI report which might defeat his claim. In response to his question, the Hearing Officer told him that there was nothing unfavorable in it. The Hearing Officer's report, which was transmitted to the appeal board, corroborates this view. Nothing in the FBI report was transmitted to the appeal board, and thus it was given no indication that the FBI report was unfavorable.