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United States v. Gillen

October 19, 1971


Cummings, Kerner, and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is from the denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus without the holding of the requested evidentiary hearing. We reverse.

Petitioner alleged that he was illegally inducted into the Armed Forces on November 25, 1970. He had been deferred as a student until his graduation from high school. On September 5, 1968, he was classified I-A. A few weeks thereafter, his father wrote Local Board No. 112 that he was disabled, deserted by his wife, and dependent on petitioner for his sole economic support. On October 25, 1968, petitioner sent a letter to his local board requesting an appeal.*fn1 The local board then mailed him a Dependency Questionnaire (Selective Service Form 118). Petitioner alleges that he "does not recall receiving" the questionnaire. On March 13, 1970, the appeal board voted to retain him in the I-A classification.

On June 3, 1970, the local board mailed petitioner an order to report for a physical examination. Five days thereafter, his mother wrote the local board that petitioner's father, who had become disabled in 1960 and had remained jobless until October 1966, had now abandoned his family, turned into a complete alcoholic, and was providing no support whatever to his family. She also wrote that she had become very ill and could not work any longer, that the family was heavily in debt and had lost its home and everything else it owned, and that petitioner had gone "to work full time to help out." The letter explained that the foregoing circumstances had affected her mental health and that she was consequently under a doctor's care. She concluded:

"At this time I depend entirely on my son for support. He carried me as a dependent on his job. I receive all my benefits such as hospital etc., through his company where he works. This is deducted at $29.14 per month from his pay check. If he has to go into the service this would be cancelled.

"My precriptions [sic] for medicine are expensive but it's something I cannot eliminate. It would be impossible for me to earn a living at this time. I couldn't possibly pay rent, utilities and my medical bills even if I could return to gainful employment.

"If he is inducted into the service I would be utterly destitute."

The local board did not then advise petitioner or his mother that the information submitted did not warrant the reopening of his classification.*fn2 On June 23, 1970, petitioner was advised that he had passed the Armed Forces physical examination. The next day he was mailed a Current Information Questionnaire (Selective Service Form 127), which he completed and promptly returned. A month later, he was mailed another Dependency Questionnaire "which he did not receive," according to the habeas corpus petition. On August 25, 1970, without having been previously notified of the board's apparent decision not to reopen on the strength of the June 8 letter,*fn3 he was ordered to report for induction on September 15, 1970.

In response to the induction order, petitioner wrote to his local board requesting a reopening of his classification on the grounds of his mother's economic and psychological dependency on him as sole support. The local board postponed his induction, granted him a courtesy hearing on October 1, 1970, but refused to reopen his case.*fn4 On November 9, petitioner was again ordered to report for induction on November 25, 1970, when he did in fact submit to induction.

The nub of the petition is that through his mother's letter petitioner had presented his local board with a prima facie case for a III-A classification, thus entitling him to a reopening of his I-A classification and giving him a right to a personal appearance before his local board and a right to appeal therefrom. The applicable regulation provides that a registrant shall be placed in a III-A classification if his induction would result in extreme hardship to a parent who is dependent upon him for support. 32 CFR ยง 1622.30. Petitioner asserts that the local board had no requisite basis in fact for refusing to reopen his classification.

In the court below, the Government argued that petitioner's father's letter of September 25, 1968, received by the local board on September 30, 1968, contradicted his mother's above-quoted letter in that the father stated "My wife has left us and * * * I left in debts. I need him at home to help me." Being 20 months apart, the letters were not necessarily in conflict. Moreover, as petitioner advised the district court, he was not disputing the Selective Service System's denial of his claim for a III-A hardship deferment based on his father's dependency. The key issue was whether his mother's letter of June 8, 1970, asserting her dependency, presented a prima facie case for a III-A classification, thus compelling the local board to reopen the case.

In urging affirmance, the Government relies on petitioner's failure to return the Dependency Questionnaires that were sent to him on October 31, 1968, and July 24, 1970. This failure is said to constitute a basis in fact for the board's failure to reopen petitioner's case. The failure to return the first questionnaire is entirely irrelevant to the local board's failure to reopen his classification after receiving his mother's letter of June 8, 1970. In our view, that letter contained sufficient dependency information to excuse the return of the July 24, 1970, Dependency Questionnaire, particularly since the Government has referred us to no statutory or regulatory provision compelling its return. Moreover, the local board gave no indication upon the record that the failure to return the Dependency Questionnaire "was a reason, either principal or contributive, for its decision." Petrie v. United States, 407 F.2d 267, 279 (9th Cir. 1969).

The Government also relies on a letter from petitioner's sister informing his local board that she was living with her mother and leaning on her brother for support, separated from her husband and in the process of getting a divorce, and unable to support her mother because her husband was bankrupt and because she would soon lose her $22.20 a week part-time job due to bill collectors. The letter concluded with the statement that petitioner's sister realized she was donating less than her share to help support the house. It is the Government's position that this letter somehow showed the ability of ...

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