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U.S. Supreme Court

Selective Service Sys. v. MPIRG, 468 U.S. 841 (1984)

Selective Service System v. Minnesota

Public Interest Research Group

No. 83-276

Argued April 23, 1984

Decided July 5, 1984

468 U.S. 841


Section 12(f) of the Military Selective Service Act denies federal financial assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to male students between the ages of 18 and 26 who fail to register for the draft. Section 12(f)(2) requires applicants for Title IV assistance to file a statement with their institutions of higher education attesting to their compliance with the Act and implementing regulations. A Presidential Proclamation requires young men to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Failure to register within this time is a criminal offense. The regulations permit late registrants to establish eligibility for Title IV assistance. Appellee students (hereafter appellees), who have not registered for the draft, brought suits in Federal District Court seeking to enjoin the enforcement of § 12(f). The District Court granted the requested relief, holding that the regulations making late registrants eligible for Title IV aid were inconsistent with the statute, and that § 12(f) is an unconstitutional bill of attainder because it singles out an identifiable group that would be ineligible for Title IV aid based on their failure to register. Alternatively, the District Court held that § 12(f) also violated appellees' Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination .


1. Section 12(f) is not a bill of attainder. Pp. 468 U. S. 846-856.

(a) A bill of attainder is

"a law that legislatively determines guilt and inflicts punishment upon an identifiable individual without provision of the protections of a judicial trial."

Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U. S. 425, 433 U. S. 468. Pp. 846-847.

(b) Section 12(f) does not single out nonregistrants and make them ineligible for Title IV aid based on their past conduct, i.e., failure to register. The section does not require registration within the time fixed by the Presidential Proclamation, and does not make late registrants ineligible for aid. The contrary view is inconsistent with 12(f)'s structure and with the legislative history. Section 12(f) clearly gives nonregistrants 30 days after receiving notice that they are ineligible for Title IV aid to register for the draft and qualify for aid. The legislative history shows that Congress' purpose in enacting § 12(f) was to encourage registration

Page 468 U. S. 842

by those who must register, but have not yet done so. Section 12(f)'s requirements are not irreversible, but can be met readily by either timely or late registration. @ 71 U. S. 847-851.

(c) Section 12(f) does not inflict punishment within the meaning of the Bill of Attainder Clause. It imposes none of the burdens historically associated with punishment. It does not even deprive appellees of Title IV benefits permanently, since it leaves open perpetually the possibility of qualifying for aid. Pp. 468 U. S. 852-853.

(d) The legislative history shows that § 12(f) was intended to further nonpunitive legislative goals. Conditioning receipt of Title IV aid on draft registration is plainly a rational means to improve compliance with the registration requirements. Section 12(f) also promotes a fair allocation of scarce federal resources by limiting Title IV aid to those who are willing to meet their responsibilities to the United States by registering for the draft when required to do so. Pp. 468 U. S. 853-856.

2. Section 12(f) does not violate appellees' Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Since a student who has not registered for the draft is bound to know that he would be denied Title IV aid, he is no sense under any "compulsion" to seek that aid, and has no reason to make any statement to anyone as to whether or not he has registered. As to a late registrant, since the law does not require him to disclose to his educational institution whether or not he registered late, he is not required to disclose any incriminating information in order to become eligible for aid. The fact that appellees must register late in order to get Title IV aid, and thus reveal to the Selective Service their failure to comply timely with the registration requirements, does not violate appellees' Fifth Amendment rights. They have not been denied the opportunity to register, and have not been disqualified for financial aid for asserting a constitutional privilege. Lefkowitz v. Turley, 414 U. S. 70, distinguished. Appellees, not having sought to register, have had no occasion to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege when asked to state their dates of birth, nor has the Government refused any request for immunity for their answers or otherwise threatened them with penalties for invoking the privilege. Under these circumstances, appellees will not be heard to complain that § 12(f) violates their Fifth Amendment rights by forcing them to acknowledge during the draft registration process they have avoided that they have registered late. Pp. 468 U. S. 856-858.

557 F.Supp. 937, reversed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in Parts I, II-B, III, and IV of which POWELL, J., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 468 U. S. 859. BRENNAN,

Page 468 U. S. 843

J., post, p. 468 U. S. 862, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 468 U. S. 862, filed dissenting opinions. BLACKMUN, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

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