United States v. King

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Mobile County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)

CITATION: 395 US 1 (1969)
ARGUED: Apr 02, 1969
DECIDED: May 19, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. King

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1969 in United States v. King

Earl Warren:

Number 672, United States versus John P. King.

Mr. Ruckelshaus.

William D. Ruckelshaus:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case involves the applicability of the declaratory judgment statute to the Court of Claims.

The decision of the Court of Claims was that the declaratory judgment statute, the federal declaratory judgment statute was applicable in this case.

Statement of the facts of this case I think would be in order in order to set the state for this decision.

Colonel King who was the respondent in this case on May 14, 1959 was found physically unfit for active duty by the Army Physical Evaluation Board.

On June 18, 1959, this decision was reviewed by the Army Physical Review counsel and that body found King fit for duty.

The latter decision was upheld by the Army Physical Disability Appeal Board on July 21, 1959 and King was retired for longevity on July 31, 1959.

In August of 1959, King filed an application for correction of military records with the Army Board for the correction of military records.

A hearing was held in January of 1961 and the application was formally denied by the Under Secretary of Army on May 19, 1961 that ended King's procedure in the Army Appeal Boards.

On July 26, 1965, respondent King filed a petition in the Court of Claims alleging that the action of the Under Secretary of Army was arbitrary and capricious in contrary to law and demanded judgment in an amount equal to the taxes paid on his retirement since 1959.

Now, the difference between the retiring for longevity and for disability now was that he would've been paid 75% of his full pay as a Colonel in both instances except that if he had been retired for disability he would not have to pay any taxes on that retirement pay.

Potter Stewart:

It's wholly exempt from tax, is it?

William D. Ruckelshaus:

Yes, that's right Mr. Justice.

Potter Stewart:

If it's disability retirement.

William D. Ruckelshaus:

Pursuant to the Government's motion to dismiss and it asserted affirmative defense, the Court of Claims dismissed respondent King's petition on the grounds that petition was basically a claim for a tax refund.

And since King had failed to file a refund with the Internal Revenue Service he was barred from asserting it in this suit pursuant to Section 26 U.S.C. 7422 (a).

The Court further stated on its own motion that the only basis for maintaining this action was under the Declaratory Judgment Act and gave plaintiff King -- respondent King in this case 30 days to file a brief on the applicability of the Declaratory Judgment Act to the Court of Claims.

After briefs were filed, the Court ruled on February 16, 1968 that the Declaratory Judgment Act did apply to the Court of Claims and further the Court gave King 30 days to amend his petition and seek a declaration, “a declaration of his right to be retired for disability and to have his military records change.”

It was from this order of the Court of Claims that the Government has sought in this Court granted certiorari to the court below.

Now, this case in its broader sense I think involves the question of whether the power and authority of the Court of Claims should be appreciably increased with reference to suits against the United States without any additional grant of power or authority from Congress.

I think specifically the question before the Court is whether the Court of Claims in this case or indeed in the broader sense in any case as the jurisdiction or power to enter declaratory judgment and I might say that the Court of Claims for the first time is saying that cases which have a money cast or which are money-related or which are money-oriented confers jurisdiction upon that Court to grant declaratory judgment.

I think that at the outset it can be stated that it is agreed on the part of the Government and on the part of respondent an amicus that the declaratory judgment statute itself confers no jurisdiction on the Court of Claims or indeed on any court by its own terms.

I think the statute speaks of the power of a United States Court to declare the rights within its jurisdiction.

So the jurisdiction for this Court of Claims to enter this declaratory judgment had to be found somewhere else.

Earl Warren:

We'll recess on Mr. Ruckelshaus.

Mr. Ruckelshaus, you may continue with your argument.

William D. Ruckelshaus:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

When the Court adjourned, the argument had just been put forward that there was no dispute between the petitioner and the respondent in the amicus or the court below for that matter as to whether the declaratory judgment statute itself conferred any jurisdiction on the Court of Claims to hear or to have the application of declaratory judgment statute applied to that Court because the statute itself says that they only have the power or right to declare rights within its jurisdiction so that that phrase within its jurisdiction means they must find this jurisdictional grant somewhere other than in the Court of -- the declaratory judgment statute itself.