Johnston v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

ARGUED: May 02, 1956 / May 03, 1956
DECIDED: May 21, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Johnston v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 03, 1956 in Johnston v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 02, 1956 in Johnston v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 643, Paul Deemer Johnston and John Sokol, versus United States of America, and Number 704, United States of America versus Dudley A. Patteson.

Mr. Covington.

Hayden C. Covington:

May it please the Court.

These cases involve an important question in the administration of criminal justice.

The three men had cases in the District Courts that raised one single question, namely, that of venue and jurisdiction.

The question was whether or not a District Court located where a hospital is situated to which these registrants have been ordered to do civilian work as conscientious objectors by their local boards had jurisdiction or does the Constitution, that is, the amendment as well as Article III, limit the jurisdiction exclusively to the place where the local board was situated.

The question involved here is one that was mentioned but left open in the case of -- decided by this Court in United States against Anderson, which is cited in both briefs.

The facts in these cases were, that Johnson and Sokol were indicted in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Johnson and Sokol were charged with having failed to perform civilian work at hospitals located in the Eastern District.

They were registered with draft boards in the Western District near Pittsburgh and they were charged with violating the Selective Training And Service Act, because they did not do this work as far as the indictments show.

Stipulations were filed in the cases showing that these men registered with these boards, that they completed their administrative remedies by appealing their cases were passed by these conscientious objectors ordered to do work at these two separate hospitals in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

They went to their boards and explained to the boards that they refused to perform this work.

Johnson filed a letter with the board.

Sokol merely notified his board orally that he was not proceeding further.

The stipulation show that neither these two men proceeded any further.

They remained in the District and did not take this second step that they've been ordered to take to proceed on to the hospital.

The Patteson case comes up from Kansas.

That it involved an Oklahoma City man charged with failing to comply with an order, issued by an Oklahoma City draft board to do work at the State Hospital located in Topeka, Kansas.

The case started out in Kansas, Judge Mellott transferred the case down to Oklahoma City.

Judge Wallace transferred it back.

Then Judge Mellott sustained my motion to dismiss the indictment.

The Government took an appeal to the Tenth Circuit as they did to the Third Circuit in the Pennsylvania cases after Judge Ganey sustained the motion to dismiss in that case.

The Tenth Circuit ruled in my favor.

The Third Circuit ruled against us on the point.

The Tenth Circuit held that the vital and crucial step in these cases was that of proceeding from the local board at Oklahoma City to the State Hospital in Kansas.

And that the refusal to take this step and the failure to take it constituted the offense and that it was committed in the District of Oklahoma City.

That is, the Western District of Oklahoma.

And therefore, Judge Mellott was right when he sustained the motion to dismiss.

The Third Circuit held that really what was involved here was the ultimate work that these men were ordered to do.

And that since this work should have been performed and was to be performed at these two hospitals in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, that the failure to do that work occurred in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania notwithstanding, the fact that these men did not leave the Western District, notwithstanding, the fact that their local board was located in the western district, notwithstanding, the fact that the order was made in the Western District, and notwithstanding, the fact that the refusal or the failure took place in the Western District.