Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

PETITIONER: Selective Service System
RESPONDENT: Minnesota Public Interest Research Group
LOCATION: Hishon & King Atlanta Office

DOCKET NO.: 83-276
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 468 US 841 (1984)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1984
DECIDED: Jul 05, 1984

Rex E. Lee - Argued the cause for the appellants
William J. Keppel - Argued the cause for the appellees

Facts of the case

Part of the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1983 denied federal financial aid to males between the ages of 18 and 26 who had failed to register for selective service. Applicants for financial aid were required to inform their universities that they had (or had not) registered for the draft.


Did compelling individuals to state whether or not they had registered violate the Fifth Amendment?

Media for Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 23, 1984 in Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Selective Service System against Minnesota Public Interest Research.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, on July 2nd, 1980, President Carter, pursuant to statutory authority, reactivated a draft registration requirement for men between the ages of 18 and 26.

After about two years, almost 7 percent of those eligible still had not complied with the registration requirement, in some cases deliberately, and in some through inadvertence.

In 1982, sponsors in both Houses of Congress introduced as a floor amendment to the 1983 Defense Authorization Act Section 1113, which would condition eligibility for Title 4 college student aid on compliance with the applicant's draft registration obligation.

Much of the language of the amendment, which is sometimes called the Solomon Amendment, was supplied by Secretary Bell, who worked closely with the sponsors in both Houses.

After vigorous debate, it passed both Houses by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.

This case is an appeal from a District Court holding that that 1982 Solomon Amendment violated two constitutional guarantees, the prohibition against bills of attainder contained in Article 1, Section 8, Section 9, and the privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

There are two separate and independently sufficient reasons why the District Court's bill of attainder holding must be reversed.

The first is... this is spelled out more completely in our reply brief... that each of the appellants' contentions rests squarely on their premise that the law does not permit aid to late registrants.

That is, those who register more than 30 days after their 18th birthday.

And the second reason is that even if the Appellees were correct on the late registration issue, this statute still is not a bill of attainder.

I will deal first with the late registration issue.

It is beyond dispute that the Secretary of Education's regulations do provide that those who register late are eligible for aid regardless of when they register.

There is accordingly no question that if the individual appellees in this case comply with their obligation to register, the government will give them the aid that they say they must have.

That is what the regulations provide, and that has been the consistent practice.

In providing that those who register late are eligible, the regulatory scheme in this as is in other respects is faithful to the statutory purpose.

Congress's objective in passing this statute was not to catch wrongdoers and punish them.

It was rather to increase the number of people who are on the draft registration roles by providing both a reminder, because in many cases the reason for non-registration was simple inadvertence, and also an economic incentive.

We turn then to the language of the statute, and there is nothing in that language that prohibits this result which the regulations provide.

The statute requires registration in accordance with any proclamation, rule, or regulation, and the President's proclamation does require registration within 30 days of the registrant's 18th birthday.

The apparent reason for the statutory reference in the Solomon Amendment to rules, regulations, and proclamations is that Section 3 of the Civil Service Act which requires registration is not self-executing and does not come into play until there is some proclamation, rule, or regulation.

But in any event it is far from clear that in accordance with means within the time fixed by.

And another part of the statute, Subsection F(4), which is really the fourth subdivision of the Solomon Amendment, supports the view that in accordance with means in the manner required by rather than within the time fixed by.

In any event, either explanation is plausible.

Certainly neither is implausible, and under those circumstances it is appropriate to consult the statutory purpose, the statutory history in determining the validity of these regulations.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

May I ask, Mr. Solicitor General, what is the dimensions of this problem?

How many have not registered who are eligible to?

Rex E. Lee:

To date?

William J. Brennan, Jr.: