MCKART V. UNITED STATES, 395 U. S. 185 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185 (1969)

McKart v. United States

No. 403

Argued February 27, 1969

Decided May 26, 1969

395 U.S. 185


Petitioner had been classified IV-A (sole surviving son status). When the Selective Service Board learned of the death of petitioner's mother, it reclassified him I-A (available for military service), on the theory that the IV-A classification became improper when the "family unit" ceased to exist. Petitioner did not appeal the reclassification. Upon his failure to report as ordered for his pre-induction physical examination, he was declared a delinquent. He failed to report for induction as ordered, and was indicted for such failure and tried. His only defense was that he was improperly denied a sole surviving son exemption. The District Court held that defense unavailable because petitioner had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies provided by the Selective Service System. Petitioner was convicted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. Petitioner was entitled to exemption from military service, as the termination of the "family unit" was not intended by Congress to warrant ending the sole surviving son exemption under § 6(o) of the Selective Service Act. Pp. 395 U. S. 189-192.

2. Petitioner's failure to appeal his classification and his failure to report for a pre-induction physical examination do not foreclose his challenging the validity of his classification as a defense to criminal prosecution for refusal to submit to induction. Pp. 395 U. S. 192-203.

(a) Though the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is applied in a number of different situations, it is subject to numerous exceptions. P. 395 U. S. 193.

(b) The exhaustion doctrine must be tailored to fit the peculiarities of the administrative system Congress created. At the heart of the Selective Service System are the local boards which register and classify those subject to the Selective Service Laws, from whose action the registrant has the right of appeal. P. 395 U. S. 195.

(c) Although the Act, as it stood when petitioner was tried, provided that local board decisions were "final," a registrant

Page 395 U. S. 186

charged with failure to report can raise the defense that there was "no basis in fact," for his classification. See Estep v. United States, 327 U. S. 114, 327 U. S. 123. P. 395 U. S. 196.

(d) This case does not involve premature resort to the courts (since all administrative remedies are now foreclosed), but failure to have utilized the particular administrative process of appeal. Pp. 395 U. S. 196-197.

(e) When petitioner was reclassified, the statute did not require the registrant to raise all his claims before an appeal board. P. 395 U. S. 197.

(f) Determining whether petitioner is entitled to the sole surviving son exemption (which is solely a matter of statutory interpretation) requires no particular expertise on the appeal board's part, as many Selective Service questions do, and judicial review would not be significantly aided by that kind of additional administrative decision. Pp. 395 U. S. 197-199.

(g) Failure to require exhaustion of administrative remedies in this case will not significantly encourage registrants to bypass available administrative remedies at the risk of criminal prosecution. Pp. 395 U. S. 199-200.

(h) Petitioner is not being prosecuted for his failure to report for physical examination, and such failure does not bar him from challenging the validity of his classification as a defense to his criminal prosecution. Falbo v. United States, 320 U. S. 549, distinguished. Pp. 395 U. S. 201-203.

395 F.2d 906, reversed and remanded.

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