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UNITED STATES v. MESSERMAN

March 3, 1955

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Zane L. MESSERMAN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WATSON

The defendant, Zane L. Messerman, was indicted for refusing to report for civilian work as ordered by his draft board in violation of Section 462, Title 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix. The case was tried by the Court without a jury.

After the government had rested its case, the defendant moved for judgment of acquittal *fn1" for the following reasons:

 2. The defendant had been assigned to a state institution, non-federal in nature, having no connection whatsoever with the Federal Government, for his civilian work assignment, and that such assignment, therefore, amounted to involuntary servitude.

 At the close of defendant's testimony and the close of all testimony, defendant renewed his motion on the above specified grounds and in addition thereto on the following third ground:

 3. The action of the board in refusing to reopen the file and reconsider the classification of the defendant was arbitrary and capricious.

 From the defendant's Selective Service file and other legal evidence, the following facts and circumstances appear:

 The defendant properly filled out his 'Classification Questionnaire' and returned it to his local board. He stated therein that he was a student preparing for the ministry under the direction of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. He requested that he be classified in Class IV-D. In addition, he stated in the questionnaire that, by reason of religious training and belief, he was conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form, and requested the local board to furnish him with a conscientious objector form.

 The local board mailed to defendant a 'special Form for Conscientious Objector', which he filled out and returned. Defendant stated therein that, by reason of his religious training and belief, he was conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form, and that he was further conscientiously opposed to participation in noncombatant training or service in the armed forces. He claimed complete exemption under Section 6(j) of Title I of the Selective Service Act of 1948 *fn2" as a conscientious objector opposed to participation in both combatant and non-combatant training and service in the armed forces.

 On July 12, 1949, the local board denied defendants claim for a IV-D classification and classified him IV-E. This classification gave him complete exemption as a conscientious objector opposed to participation in both combatant and noncombatant training and service in the armed forces. No appeal was taken by the defendant. On June 19, 1951, the Act was amended, at which time the IV-E classification was abolished and the I-O classification was substituted in its place. The new I-O classification applied to conscientious objectors opposed to both combatant and non-combatant service. On November 27, 1951, Messerman's local board classified him I-O. Again no appeal was taken by the defendant.

 On August 28, 1952, the defendant was found acceptable and on September 4, 1952, a certificate of acceptability was mailed to him. The defendant, having been classified I-O and having been found acceptable, was eligible in accordance with the Selective Service Regulations to perform for a period of twenty-four consecutive months such civilian work contributing to the maintenance of the national health, safety, or interest as the local board deemed appropriate. The defendant failed to submit to the local board the types of work he would offer to perform. On September 23, 1953, a letter was sent to the defendant by the local board listing three types of civilian work and requesting the defendant to select the type of work he was qualified to do and offer to perform in lieu of induction into the armed forces. In his reply to this letter, the defendant stated that the only work he would be experienced in would be maintenance work, but asserted he could not accept it since he made a covenant to Jehovah God to do His will. Since no agreement had been reached between the registrant and the local board as to the type of work the registrant would perform in lieu of induction, it became necessary for the representative of the Pennsylvania Director of Selective Service to arrange a meeting with the local board and the registrant and offer his assistance in reaching an agreement. Such meeting is provided for in the Regulations. After due notice to the registrant, such meeting was held on November 18, 1953, at which appeared in addition to the registrant and others, Major William C. Halfpenny, Jr., representative of the Pennsylvania State Director. At the meeting the defendant related that he would not be able to come to any agreement since his participation in the work program would conflict with his religious beliefs. In view of the registrant's refusal to come to an agreement, Major Halfpenny advised that it would be necessary for the local board to select a type of work it deemed appropriate together with a plan of employment, and after obtaining the approval of the Director of Selective Service, the registrant would be ordered to perform such work.

 On December 29, 1953, the local board met and decided that the registrant should be assigned to hospital work at the Philadelphia State Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In a letter the same date, the local board apprised the State Director of its decision and requested the necessary approval of the Director of Selective Service, Washington, D.C. Such approval was received by the local board on March 30, 1954. Subsequently, the registrant was ordered to report to his local board on April 12, 1954, at which time he would receive instructions to proceed to the place of employment.

 In a letter dated April 6, 1954, the registrant informed the local board that on March 25, 1954 he was appointed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as Theocratic Ministry School Instructor of the Beavertown Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Because of this appointment and his previous status, defendant thought he was entitled to a ministerial classification and requested the board to reopen his classification. After receipt of this letter, the local board met and after careful consideration, notified the registrant that the reopening of his classification and the granting of a personal appearance before the local board had been denied for the reason, inter alia, that the facts contained in his letter of April 6, 1954 presented no facts that would justify a change in his classification.

 When the registrant reported to his local board on April 12, 1954, he was advised to report to the Personnel Director of the Philadelphia State Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 16, 1954. This was his civilian work assignment. While at the local board on April 12, 1954, the defendant stated that he could not accept this ...


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