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decided: March 9, 1953.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Jackson, Burton, Clark, Minton

Author: Jackson

[ 345 U.S. Page 84]

 MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner presents a novel case. Admitting that he was lawfully inducted into the Army, he asks the courts, by habeas corpus, to discharge him because he has not been assigned to the specialized duties nor given the commissioned rank to which he claims to be entitled by the circumstances of his induction. The petitioner had passed the ages liable to induction except under the Universal Military Training and Service Act, 50 U. S. C. App. § 454 (i)(1)(A), which authorizes conscription of certain "medical and allied specialist categories." The statute sets up a priority system for calling such specialists, the first liable being those who received professional training at government expense during World War II and who have served less than ninety days since completion of such training. As a doctor who had received training under this program, Orloff was subject to this provision and was called up pursuant to it.

[ 345 U.S. Page 85]

     His petition alleged that he was illegally restrained of his liberty because he was liable for service only as a doctor but, after induction, had been given neither rank nor duties appropriate to that profession and so was entitled to be discharged. He alleged that under Army regulations and practice one can serve as a doctor only as a commissioned officer and that he applied for but had not received such an appointment. He also alleged that he had requested assignment of physician's duties, with or without a commission, but that this also had been denied him.

The return to the order to show cause asserted that Orloff was lawfully inducted and therefore the court is without jurisdiction of the subject matter. An affidavit by Colonel Willoughby set forth that the petitioner, after sixteen weeks of Army medical service training following his induction, was awarded a "potential military occupation specialty" as a medical laboratory technician. Appointment as an officer in the Army Medical Corps Reserve, he said, was still under consideration. It also asserted that under his induction he was liable for training and service under military jurisdiction and was subject to military orders and service the same as any other inducted person.

Answering the petition for habeas corpus, the respondent raised as affirmative defenses that petitioner was subject to military command and that both the subject matter and the person of the petitioner were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the President of the United States as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and that petitioner had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Respondent further stated that his application for a commission still was being processed by military authorities "because of particular statements made by petitioner in his application concerning prior membership or association with certain organizations designated

[ 345 U.S. Page 86]

     by the Attorney General of the United States on October 30, 1950 pursuant to Executive Order 9835," that the court was without jurisdiction, and that habeas corpus does not lie for the purpose of the case.

By way of traverse, Orloff set forth in detail his qualifications as a physician and psychiatrist and alleged that the medical laboratory technician status was not a doctor's work and required no more than a four-month training of a layman in the medical field service school. This, he claims, is not within the medical specialist category for which he was conscripted. He asserted that he was willing to serve as a medical specialist, that is, as a medical doctor, and had offered his services as a doctor in the grade or rank of private but had been advised that he could serve as a doctor only upon being commissioned.

Upon such pleadings the cause proceeded to hearing. Petitioner's counsel told the trial court that no question was involved as to the Army's granting or not granting a commission and that petitioner was not asking anybody to give anybody else a commission, but he claimed to be entitled to discharge until the Army was prepared to use his services as a doctor. It was admitted that petitioner had made no request of respondent for a discharge. Evidence was taken indicating that the specialty to which Orloff had been assigned was not that usual for a physician. The trial judge concluded that the law does not require a person drafted under the "medical and allied specialist categories" to be assigned doctor's functions and those only, and interpreted the law that a doctor inducted under the statute was in the same status, so far as his obedience to orders is concerned, as if he had been inducted under other conscription statutes and could not insist on being used in the medical category. He therefore denied the writ.

[ 345 U.S. Page 87]

     On appeal, as the Court of Appeals pointed out, the case was argued and briefed by the Government on the broad theory that under the statute doctors could be drafted and used for any purpose the Army saw fit, that duty assignment for such inductees was a matter of military discretion. The court agreed and on that ground affirmed.*fn1

We granted certiorari,*fn2 and in this Court the parties changed positions as nimbly as if dancing a quadrille. The Government here admits that the petitioner is entitled to duties generally within a doctor's field and says that he now has been assigned to such. The petitioner denies that he yet has duties that fully satisfy that requirement. Notwithstanding his position before the trial court, he further says that anyway he must be commissioned and wants this Court to order him commissioned or discharged.

In its present posture, questions presented are, first, whether to accept the Government's concession that one inducted as a medical specialist must be used as such; second, whether petitioner, as matter of law, is entitled to a commission; third, whether the federal courts, by habeas corpus, have power to discharge a lawfully mustered member of the Armed Forces because of alleged discriminatory or illegal treatment in assignment of duties.

1. This Court, of course, is not bound to accept the Government's concession that the courts below erred on a question of law. They accepted the Government's argument as then made and, if they were right in doing so, we should affirm. We think, however, that the Government is well advised in confessing error and that candid reversal of its position is commendable. We

[ 345 U.S. Page 88]

     understand that the Army accepts and is governing itself by the Government's present interpretation of its duty toward those conscripted because of professional skills. To separate particular professional groups from the generality of the citizenship and render them liable to military service only because of their expert callings and, after induction, to divert them from the class of work for which they were conscripted would raise questions not only of bad faith but of unlawful discrimination. We agree that the statute should be interpreted to obligate the Army to classify specially inducted professional personnel for duty within the categories which rendered them liable to induction. It is not conceded, however, that particular duty orders within the general field are subject to judicial review by habeas corpus.

2. We cannot comply with the appellant's insistence that we order him to be commissioned or discharged. We assume that he is correct in stating that it has been a uniform practice to commission Army doctors; indeed, until 1950 Congress provided that the Army Medical Corps should consist of ". . . commissioned officers below the grade of brigadier general." 10 U. S. C. A. § 91. But in 1950 Congress repealed § 91 and substituted in its place the following language: "[The Medical Corps] . . . shall consist of Regular Army officers appointed and commissioned therein and such other members of the Army as may be assigned thereto by the Secretary of the Army . . . ." 10 U. S. C. § 81-1. 10 U. S. C. § 94 provides that medical officers of the Army may be assigned by the Secretary of the Army to such duties as the interests of the service demand. Thus, ...

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