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decided: March 14, 1955.



Warren, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Minton, Harlan

Author: Clark

[ 348 U.S. Page 398]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents another question concerning the processing of conscientious objector claims under the Universal Military Training and Service Act. Petitioner contends that the failure of the Department of Justice to furnish him with a fair resume of all adverse information in the Federal Bureau of Investigation report deprived him of the "hearing" provided by § 6 (j) of the Act, 62 Stat. 612, as amended, 50 U. S. C. App. § 456 (j), and thereby invalidated his I-A classification. In the circumstances of this case, we conclude that a fair resume, as contemplated in United States v. Nugent, 346 U.S. 1 (1953), was not furnished petitioner, and that this deprived him of a fair hearing within the terms of the Act.

Petitioner registered under the selective service laws in 1948. He was then employed as a chauffeur at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, having had 8 years of grade school and 2 1/2 years of high school. At that time, he did not claim to be a minister or a conscientious objector, but stated that he believed his classification

[ 348 U.S. Page 399]

     should be I-A. The local Board so classified him. In 1949, petitioner was married, and on June 4, 1951, he was given a dependency deferment, which was terminated on October 22, 1951. Within a week of his restoration to I-A, petitioner filed the special form for conscientious objectors, claiming exemption from combatant and noncombatant service. In this and in subsequent statements to the selective service authorities, petitioner revealed that he had first been contacted by a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses in November 1949; that he had started a Bible study course at that time and had progressed gradually toward the status of minister; that he had become an unordained minister in December 1950, and an ordained minister in October 1951; that he preached from house to house and on the streets, giving public expression to his conscientious objections to war; that the demands of his "ministry" and the commands of the Bible, admonishing him not to kill and to follow God rather than men, precluded his participation in the military; and that he would not use force "unless it be under the supervision of Jehovah God." After a personal appearance, in which petitioner sought exemption as a minister rather than as a conscientious objector, the local Board continued him in I-A. Petitioner filed an appeal. The Appeal Board tentatively found against him, and referred the case to the Department of Justice.

Following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, petitioner was notified to appear for a hearing. No copy of the notice appears in the record, but it appears that the form sent to registrants during the period in question stated that the hearing officer would advise the registrant "as to the general nature and character" of adverse evidence in the FBI report if he requested such information "at any time after receipt by him of the notice of hearing and before the date

[ 348 U.S. Page 400]

     set for the hearing."*fn1 There is no evidence that petitioner made such a request prior to the hearing. He did, however, make a request at the hearing. According to petitioner's uncontradicted testimony, the hearing officer told him that the FBI report disclosed that he had been hanging around poolrooms, and the hearing officer asked him if he did that now. Petitioner replied that he did not, and asked what else was in the report. The hearing officer changed the subject. He subsequently asked petitioner's wife how she was feeling and how petitioner was treating her. Her reply was "fine." The hearing officer reported that petitioner impressed him as sincere, but recommended that he be classified I-A because his religious activities coincided with pressure from the Draft Board.

In its report to the Appeal Board, the Department of Justice adopted the hearing officer's recommendation, relying on the timing of petitioner's religious activities and "his abusiveness and the exercise of physical violence towards his wife."*fn2 The latter reason rested on data presumably gathered by the FBI. According to the Department's

[ 348 U.S. Page 401]

     report, police records showed that petitioner was arrested and fined in May 1950 for hitting his wife; that the police were called upon to settle a "hot argument" in June ...

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