Davis v. United States

PETITIONER: Joseph Anthony Davis
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: US Circuit Court for the Ninth Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 72-1454
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 417 US 333 (1974)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1974
DECIDED: Jun 10, 1974

Edmund W. Kitch - argued the cause for the United States
Marvin M. Karpatkin - argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Joseph Anthony Davis was classified as I-A by a draft board and ordered to report for a physical examination. He failed to report several times. The draft board declared him a delinquent, and issued an order that he be inducted into the Armed Forces. Under 32 CFR Section 1631.7, a draftee could only be ordered to report for induction if he was deemed "acceptable for service" after a physical examination and if the board had mailed him a statement of his status with three weeks' notice. The statute provided an exception for draftees that were declared delinquent, accelerating the process. Davis was convicted in United States District Court for the Central District of California for his failures to report, and he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While his case was pending, the Supreme Court decided Gutknecht v. United States. Gutknecht involved a similar situation, in which a draftee's induction was accelerated by his delinquent status. The Supreme Court declared Gutknecht's conviction invalid. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court, which held that Davis' case was not impacted by Gutknecht. This ruling was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Davis petitioned for certiorari. During this process, the Ninth Circuit ruled in United States v. Fox. Fox involved a situation similar to Davis'. Fox's conviction was reversed by the Ninth Circuit. Meanwhile, Davis' petition for certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court, and he began serving his prison sentence. Davis then challenged his conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255. Davis asserted that in the process of his conviction, the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Fox changed the law. The District Court ruled against him. The Ninth Circuit affirmed on the ground that it had already ruled against him on the same issue. Davis then appealed to the Supreme Court.


Was Davis entitled to challenge his conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255?

Media for Davis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1974 in Davis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 10, 1974 in Davis v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice White.

The judgment and opinion of the in 72-1454, Davis against the United States will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This is a case that is here by way of grant of a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petitioner Joseph Anthony Davis was convicted in a Federal District Court in California for violating a provision of the Selective Service Act, and his conviction was thereafter affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Soon thereafter, in another very similar case, the Court of Appeals reversed a Selective Service Act conviction on the ground that the induction order on which that conviction was based was not authorized by the law.

The petitioner Davis then brought this proceeding under Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code collaterally attacking his conviction upon the ground that under the law of this circuit has changed since the affirmance of his conviction.

His induction order had been unauthorized and that his conviction was therefore invalid.

The District Court denied relief and the Court of Appeals affirmed without considering the merits of his claim on the ground that its previous decision on his direct appeal or as the law of the case and that the Court would not therefore consider his claim that there had subsequently been a change in a law of the circuit which made his conviction invalid.

For the reasons set out in some detail in the Court’s written opinion today, we hold that the Court of Appeals was in error in holding that the so-called law of the case precluded Davis from securing relief under Section 2255 on the basis of an intervening change in law.

We further hold that the issue that Davis raises is cognitable in a proceeding under Section 2255 of Title 28 of the United States Code.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part and Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.