Cox v. United States

332 U.S. 442, 68 S. Ct. 115 (1947)



Petitioners are entitled to raise the question of the validity of their selective service classifications in a criminal prosecution for absence without leave when they have exhausted their remedies in the selective service process. Whatever their position might be in attempting to raise the question by writs of habeas corpus against the camp custodian, they are entitled to raise the issue as a defense . The scope of review to which petitioners are entitled, however, is limited. The provision making the decisions of the local boards "final" means that Congress chose not to give administrative action under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 the customary scope of judicial review which obtains under other statutes. It means that the courts are not to weigh the evidence to determine whether the classification made by the local boards was justified. The decisions of the local boards made in conformity with the regulations are final even though they may be erroneous. The question of jurisdiction of the local board is reached only if there is no basis in fact for the classification which it gave the registrant.


Defendants were classified as conscientious objectors despite their claim that they were ministers of religion. They exhausted their remedies for reclassification in the selective service process and reported to a public service camp. Defendants left camp without permission and failed to return, and they were convicted of violating the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The circuit court of appeals affirmed their convictions. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.


Did defendants violate the Selective Training and Service Act?




The Court concluded that the local board had an adequate basis to deny defendants classification as ministers. It would have been improper to give a charge to the jury which would have allowed them to determine the validity of the classification. Once the district court determined that the file supported the local board's decision, nothing in that file was pertinent to any issue proper for jury consideration.

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