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United States v. Neamand

decided: November 16, 1971.


Van Dusen, Aldisert, and Gibbons, Circuit Judges.

Author: Aldisert


ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

In 1970 we announced the rule that where there is a request for reopening of a classification based on the existence of conscientious objector belief, and the registrant has established a prima facie entitlement, the local board must buttress any denial of such request with a statement of reasons for its action. Scott v. Commanding Officer, 431 F.2d 1132 (3d Cir. 1970). This appeal from a conviction, D.C., 302 F. Supp. 1296, for refusing to submit to induction into the Armed Forces in violation of 50 U.S.C. App. § 462(a) requires us to decide whether the Scott rule should have been applied to the circumstances of this case.

Although it is questionable that a prima facie case of conscientious objection was presented, the request for reclassification was made before the Supreme Court rendered the milestone decisions in Mulloy v. United States, 398 U.S. 410, 90 S. Ct. 1766, 26 L. Ed. 2d 362 (1970) (opportunity for full administrative review is indispensable); Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333, 90 S. Ct. 1792, 26 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1970) (a registrant's moral, ethical, or religious belief held with the strength of traditional religious convictions qualified under § 6(j)); Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437, 91 S. Ct. 828, 28 L. Ed. 2d 168 (1971) (conscientious objection to a particular war does not qualify); and Ehlert v. United States, 402 U.S. 99, 91 S. Ct. 1319, 28 L. Ed. 2d 625 (1971) (crystallization of a conscientious objector belief after receiving notice of induction was a circumstance over which the registrant had control).*fn1

After Neamand registered on November 14, 1960, his first classification was II-S, student, issued April 22, 1963. He was reclassified II-S on November 25, 1963, and classified I-A on June 22, 1964. On July 27, 1964, he was again classified II-S. On April 11, 1966, he filed a Form 150 requesting I-O status, conscientious objector. Without acting on this request, the board again classified Neamand II-S on June 22, 1966; and on September 21, 1966, I-A. On November 22, 1966, he was given an occupational deferment, II-A, and was again classified I-A on December 12, 1967.

Throughout this entire period he continued to file material with the local board supporting his request for I-O status. On January 23, 1968, the board made the formal rejection of the conscientious objection claim, deciding, without stating reasons, that the information submitted by Neamand by letter dated January 9, 1968, did not warrant the reopening of his classification. The state appeal board, also without stating reasons, affirmed the local board's classification on April 16, 1968. On April 24, 1968, he was mailed a notice to report for induction on May 7, 1968. After refusing induction on June 11, 1968, Neamand filed a second Form 150 on November 25, 1968.

Neamand testified at his trial that when he filed the first 150 Form in April of 1966: "* * * I viewed myself as a selective conscientious objector. In other words, a person opposed solely to the war in Vietnam. * * *" His 1966 Form 150 supports this characterization. Additionally, he testified that at the time of the filing of his first Form 150 he was told by the local board's secretary that "unless I was a Maronite or Quaker or Mennonite or something like that I wouldn't have a chance of getting a conscientious objector rating."

Neamand asserted that from the time of his original selective objection, asserted in 1966, his views began to change, culminating in an abhorrence of all war:

The experiences I had in Europe in meeting quite a number of people and talking to people, the experience I had in Washington when I participated in the protests in October of 1967, the experiences I had over the past summer and the experience I've had in regard to [a book] store that my sister and I opened in Bethlehem, have all led me to believe that my initial presentation of a selective conscientious objector was indeed wrong and certainly wrong now, and that now I feel nothing can be achieved by violence, and there's absolutely no sense in resorting to violence.

Asked when his belief of conscientious objection to all war crystallized, he said, "It's very difficult for me to say exactly when it occurred. * * *"

The second 150 Form, and the beliefs asserted therein, could not be considered as a defense to the criminal charge for which appellant was convicted. The crime was made out on June 11, 1968, when he refused induction. In United States v. Noonan, 434 F.2d 582, 585 (3d Cir. 1970), we held that a registrant may not convert a belated attempt for reopening a classification "into a legal defense to the crime he committed * * * earlier." This is not to say, however, that the maturation of one's belief is not a proper subject for consideration by the federal courts within the limited confines of judicial review of selective service classifications.*fn2 "It is now axiomatic in Selective Service cases that the standard of judicial review of classifications by a local board is whether there is basis in fact for the board's classification." United States v. Carroll, 398 F.2d, 651, at 653 (3d Cir. 1968); Witmer v. United States, 348 U.S. 375, 75 S. Ct. 392, 99 L. Ed. 428 (1955); Estep v. United States, 327 U.S. 114, 66 S. Ct. 423, 90 L. Ed. 567 (1946); 50 U.S.C. App. § 460(b) (3).

"Because of the narrowly limited scope of judicial review available to a registrant," Mulloy v. United States, supra, 398 U.S. at 416, 90 S. Ct. at 1771, and because the opportunity to exercise it is similarly straitened, the courts have been generous in extending maximum procedural protection to all registrants. Thus, failure to reopen where a prima facie case for reclassification is claimed has been consistently held to be a denial of due process, Mulloy v. United States, supra ; United States v. Turner, 421 F.2d 1251 (3d Cir. 1970), because under 32 C.F.R. § 1625.11 reopening of the classification is a passport to an administrative appeal. Moreover, Scott requires a statement of reasons where the denial of a prima facie claim is present. "The purpose of our holding in Scott, as stated in that opinion, is to ensure meaningful judicial review of administrative action by requiring that the court have some idea of the basis for the decision of a local or appeal board." United States v. Crownfield, 439 F.2d 839, 842 (3d Cir. 1971). "Because conscientious objector status may be grounded in highly sophisticated beliefs, is extremely subjective in nature, and may, at times, be most difficult to demonstrate by objective standards, the requirement of a statement of reasons serves the dual purpose of affording a modicum of protection to the registrant and of providing a framework for intelligent administrative and judicial review of the board's decision." United States v. Stephens, 445 F.2d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1971) (Concurring Opinion).

We put aside the question whether Neamand's January, 1968 request for reopening met the orthodox test for a prima facie case.*fn3 Our concern is not so much for the facts alleged by the registrant, as it is over the fluid state of selective service law during the time when Neamand's request was before the board for consideration. At the time of his request, the local boards did not have the benefit of Welsh (June 15, 1970) and Gillette (March 8, 1971). But there had been authoritative opinions from highly respected authorities which pointed a direction giving some support to Neamand's original selective war stance. See, e.g., United States v. McFadden, 309 F. Supp. 502 (N.D.Cal.1970), Zirpoli, J.,*fn4 finding § 6(j) of the Act unconstitutional; United States v. Sisson, 297 F. Supp. 902 ...

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