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Sedivy v. Richardson


decided: September 26, 1973.



Van Dusen, Aldisert and Adams, Circuit Judges.

Author: Aldisert


ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

We are called upon to review the propriety of a permanent injunction issued by the district court, a federal civilian court, which prohibits the trial of an army sergeant by court-martial on the theory that the military court lacked jurisdiction under O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258, 23 L. Ed. 2d 291, 89 S. Ct. 1683 (1969). The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, and the court-martial's convening authority, a general officer, have appealed.

A general court-martial had been convened to try Army Sergeant First Class Sedivy for possession of amphetamines and marijuana in violation of Articles 92 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §§ 892, 934.*fn1 By the terms of the permanent injunction issued by the district court, the military authorities were enjoined from proceeding against Sedivy on these charges. The district court made findings of fact, drew legal conclusions therefrom, and held that Sedivy's conduct was not service connected, and, therefore, under O'Callahan the military court lacked jurisdiction to try him.

The military prosecution emanated from a December 10, 1971, raid on Sedivy's off-post house trailer. Civilian and military law enforcement officials conducted the raid, acting pursuant to a search warrant issued by a New Jersey state judge. The authorities found a quantity of amphetamines and marijuana on the premises and arrested Sergeant Sedivy and three other enlisted men attached to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. At that time Sergeant Sedivy served as acting first sergeant of the 241st Military Police Company and was the senior non-commissioned officer of that unit.*fn2 The threshold inquiry concerns the authority of the district court to find the facts and reach the legal conclusions on the O'Callahan issue.


We immediately notice an issue neither argued nor briefed here or in the district court. It was incumbent upon Sergeant Sedivy to assert a claim cognizable under the general federal question jurisdictional statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, with the prerequisite $10,000 amount in controversy. Cf., Spock v. David, 469 F.2d 1047 (3d Cir. 1972). This he did by appropriate averments in both the First and Fourth Counts of his complaint. As the concurring opinion indicates, the appellants filed no answer, but in a brief colloquy at trial their counsel refused to stipulate to the court's jurisdiction. It cannot thus be said that the question of jurisdiction was properly traversed by a pleading or by a motion under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1). As was the case of the trial court in Spock, "the district court assumed that the jurisdiction of the federal court was not in issue." "Since as the record of the district court comes before us, the allegation of jurisdictional amount remains untraversed, . . . we cannot say as a legal certainty that [Sedivy] would never be able to establish [his] jurisdictional amount claim." Spock v. David, supra, 469 F.2d at 1052. Although the jurisdiction averments were not traversed at trial, we are permitted to raise the question sua sponte. "An objection to the adjudicatory power of a tribunal may generally be raised for the first time at any stage of the litigation. See, e.g., Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 88 n.2, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968); United States v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 226, 229, [82 L. Ed. 764, 58 S. Ct. 601] (1938); Fortier v. New Orleans National Bank, 112 U.S. 439, 444, [28 L. Ed. 764, 5 S. Ct. 234] (1884)." Gosa v. Mayden, 413 U.S. 665, 93 S. Ct. 2926, 37 L. Ed. 2d 873, 41 U.S.L.W. 5075, 5087-5088 (1973) (Marshall, J., dissenting) (footnote omitted). Because the very nature of this action presents an arguable question whether the jurisdictional amount could be satisfied, this is the type of case most appropriate for factual findings relating to subject matter jurisdiction. Nevertheless, we find it unnecessary to remand for such findings, first, because we are not required to, Spock v. David, supra, and, second, because of the view we take of these proceedings. For the guidance of the district courts, we emphasize the desirability to find jurisdictional facts in all cases arising under the general federal question statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, Nelson v. Keefer, 451 F.2d 289 (3d Cir. 1971). It is the Congressional mandate to restrict federal jurisdiction in these areas and it is incumbent upon the courts to implement this mandate.


The precise question we address is whether the federal civilian courts may prevent absolutely the military from finding the facts and determining whether they have jurisdiction under O'Callahan. The Constitution specifically provides for military punishment of military related offenses, Article 1, § 8, cl. 14; amend. V. ". . . Congress, in the exercise of its power to 'make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces,' has never given . . . [the Supreme] Court appellate jurisdiction to supervise the administration of criminal justice in the military. When after the Second World War, Congress became convinced of the need to assure direct civilian review over military justice, it deliberately chose to confide this power to a specialized Court of Military Appeals, so that disinterested civilian judges could gain over time a fully developed understanding of the distinctive problems and legal traditions of the Armed Forces." Noyd v. Bond, 395 U.S. 683, 694, 23 L. Ed. 2d 631, 89 S. Ct. 1876 (1969) (footnote omitted).

If the Supreme Court articulates such a rule relating to the exercise of appellate jurisdiction over military courtmartial matters, it would seem a fortiori that the inferior Article III courts are precluded from injunctive interference with the trial process of a military court. Civilian federal courts have approached ongoing courts-martial gingerly, and generally only through the means of federal habeas corpus.*fn3

We recently have had occasion to observe that federal habeas corpus preserves the jurisprudential integrity of the military system, because federal habeas corpus, an inquiry into "detention simpliciter," is not a direct review of a state or military court judgment:

Initially, it is necessary to identify the limited contours of a civilian court's jurisdiction when presented with a habeas corpus petition from a federal prisoner whose incarceration was ordered by a court -martial. Our statement of this issue is deliberate, for we avoid the imprecise label "review." Title 10 U.S.C. § 876 provides that military criminal proceedings shall be "final and conclusive," and "binding upon all departments, courts, agencies, and officers of the United States." That is, as in the case of petitions for habeas corpus filed by state prisoners under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, where there is no jurisdiction to review the state judgment, here there can be no review of the final judgment of the court-martial. Naturally, however, a federal court has jurisdiction to examine state prisoner habeas corpus cases, and the basis of this jurisdiction was made clear in Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 430-31, [9 L. Ed. 2d 837, 83 S. Ct. 822] (1963): "The jurisdictional prerequisite is not the judgment of a state court but detention simpliciter. . . . Habeas lies to enforce the right of personal liberty; when that right is denied and a person confined, the federal court has the power to release him. Indeed, it has no other power; it cannot revise the state court judgment; it can act only on the body of the petitioner. Medley, Petitioner, 134 U.S. 160, 173, [33 L. Ed. 835, 10 S. Ct. 384]." Thus the federal court inquiry into "detention simpliciter " is not, jurisprudentially speaking, a review of the state judgment, but an inquiry into whether the constitutional rights of the prisoner were properly vindicated in the proceedings which caused his detention.

Levy v. Parker, supra, 478 F.2d at 779. (footnote omitted)

Even under habeas corpus, the opportunity for its exercise is strictly contained. "Gusik v. Schilder, 340 U.S. 128, [95 L. Ed. 146, 71 S. Ct. 149] (1950), established the general rule that habeas corpus petitions from military prisoners should not be entertained by federal civilian courts until all available remedies within the military court system have been invoked in vain." Noyd v. Bond, supra, 395 U.S. at 693.*fn4


Because our issue is tightly constrained, it is important to emphasize what is not before us. This is not habeas corpus. This is not an inquiry into the present detention of a military prisoner following a court-martial adjudication. Noyd v. Bond, supra ; O'Callahan v. Parker, supra ; Levy v. Parker, supra ; Cole v. Laird, 468 F.2d 829 (5th Cir. 1972). See Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 430-431, 9 L. Ed. 2d 837, 83 S. Ct. 822 (1963). What we have is an equity action preventing the military courts from making findings of fact or from interpreting the law pronounced by the Supreme Court. Our research has disclosed no reported case which has denied military courts the opportunity of finding facts relating to the exercise of their jurisdiction, except Moylan v. Laird, 305 F. Supp. 551 (R.I. 1969), which we expressly decline to follow. The Moylan court appears to have ignored the Congressional limitations of 10 U.S.C. § 876 as well as every reported case on the subject.*fn5 Moreover, experience discloses that ". . . review of military proceedings is characterized by the law -fact dichotomy articulated most precisely by the Court of Claims: issues of fact are not reviewable; issues of law are. . . . Shaw v. United States, 174 Ct. Cl. 899, 357 F.2d 949, 953-54 (1966). . . ." Levy v. Parker, supra, 478 F.2d at 783.

Statutory proscription and precedent aside, it is important to place the military court system in its proper prospective. "Military courts are legislative courts; their jurisdiction is independent of Art. III judicial power."*fn6 Parisi v. Davidson, 405 U.S. 34, 41 n.7, 31 L. Ed. 2d 17, 92 S. Ct. 815, (1972). They function in a procedural and jurisprudential environment tailored to meet military conditions. Justice Harlan addressed ". . . considerations [which] require a substantial degree of civilian deference to military tribunals. In reviewing military decisions, we must accommodate the demands of individual rights and the social order in a context which is far removed from those which we encounter in the ordinary run of civilian litigation, whether state or federal. In doing so, we must interpret a legal tradition which is radically different from that which is common in civil courts." Noyd v. Bond, 395 U.S. at 694.

Generally speaking, a service man must exhaust remedies within the military judicial system even before habeas corpus recourse may be had to a federal court. "Exhaustion in this context requires completion of all the steps of review provided within the military. . . . Prior to completion of this process, the civilian courts have not entertained petitions for habeas corpus. See Brown v. McNamara, 387 F.2d 150 (3d Cir. 1967). . . . Exhaustion of these administrative remedies generally seems appropriate under Professor Jaffe's analysis. There is reason to have the military develop and decide the disputed questions of fact; the military is theoretically part of a coordinate branch of government entitled to some deference. L. Jaffe, Judicial Control of Administrative Action 424-26 (1965)." McCormack, Federal Court Intervention in Military Courts -- Interrelationship of Defenses and Comity, 6 GA. L. REV. 532, 553-54 n.89.

Justice Marshall has recently explained the exhaustion requirement within the military justice system:

"The exhaustion doctrine evolved in the context of collateral attack on state criminal proceedings. See, e.g., Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, [88 L. Ed. 572, 64 S. Ct. 448] (1944); Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, [29 L. Ed. 868, 6 S. Ct. 734] (1886). It generally requires state petitioners to utilize available state court remedies before resorting to federal habeas corpus, and thus serves both to ensure the orderly functioning of state judicial processes, without disruptive federal court intervention, and to allow state courts to fulfill their roles as co-equal partners with the federal courts in the enforcement of federal law, thus often eliminating the need for federal court action, and avoiding unnecessary friction between state and federal courts. These same considerations inhere in the context of collateral attack in federal court upon the judgments of military tribunals, which constitute a judicial system -- a system with its own peculiar purposes and legal traditions -- distinct from the federal judicial system much like the independent state judicial systems. Accordingly, this Court normally has required that military petitioners exhaust all available remedies within the military justice system. See Noyd v. Bond, 395 U.S. 683, 693, [23 L. Ed. 2d 631, 89 S. Ct. 1876] (1969); Gusik v. Schilder, 340 U.S. 128, 131-132, [95 L. Ed. 146, 71 S. Ct. 149] (1950)." Gosa v. Mayden, supra, 41 U.S.L.W. 5075, 5089 (Marshall, J., dissenting) (footnotes omitted).*fn7

We perceive the presence of no countervailing circumstances to necessitate a departure from the normal requirement of exhaustion of military remedies before recourse to federal civilian courts.*fn8

The military court system -- including the general court-martial, the Army Court of Military Review, and the Court of Military Appeals -- are required to follow the mandate of O'Callahan as further explicated in Relford v. Commandant, 401 U.S. 355, 28 L. Ed. 2d 102, 91 S. Ct. 649 (1971).*fn9

It is in the military court that Sergeant Sedivy may present the facts and the appropriate motion to oust military jurisdiction. Those tribunals may freely make the necessary factual determinations and draw conclusions from all the evidence present, including but not limited to the nature of the charges lodged against Sergeant Sedivy, that the seizure of the incriminating evidence was pursuant to a civilian court order, that the incident occurred off-base, that it did not occur in time of war, that Sergeant Sedivy was not on duty, that he was the ranking non-commissioned officer of the Fort Monmouth Military Police Company, that a sign on his house trailer announced that he was a first sergeant in the military police, that arrested with him were three Fort Monmouth enlisted men of inferior rank, that a fourth enlisted man under his command arrived at his trailer while the raid was in process.

Accordingly, we conclude that it was error for the district court to have made the fact findings in the first instance, to have decided the O'Callahan issue, and to have issued the injunction pursuant to a decision on the merits. The district court should have required the appellee to exhaust remedies in the military court system and not have interfered with its orderly process.


Although we recognize that a jurisprudential premise of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), is the recognition of comity between courts of two co-equal sovereigns, federal and state, a persuasive case can be made that the doctrine applies equally to mutual non-intervention by two coordinate courts of the same sovereign.*fn10 It can be contended that the equity postulates of Younger bade fealty to a traditional principle that one court system should not intrude when another court system holds out hope of an adequate remedy.*fn11 Moreover, here, as emphasized in Younger, there appears to be no barrier to the assertion of Sergeant Sedivy's constitutional defense in a single criminal proceeding. So conceptualized, we arrive at the same result. Whether it be said that Sergeant Sedivy failed to exhaust avenues for relief in the military court system, or that he had available an adequate remedy at law, he was not entitled to the equitable relief granted by the district court.

The judgment of the district court will be reversed and the proceedings remanded with a direction to vacate the injunction and dismiss the complaint.

ADAMS, Circuit Judge, concurring:

I concur with the result reached by the majority but feel constrained to add that the question whether the $10,000 "matter in controversy" requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1331 is, or must be, met in this type case deserves, at some point, more serious consideration than it has been given thus far by the federal courts.

Sedivy's complaint alleges, among other things, violations of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights and a matter in controversy exceeding $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. He sought temporary, preliminary, and permanent restraint against the military authorities, and damages consisting specifically of counsel fees and costs of suit totaling $12,500. For reasons unclear in the record, the Government did not file an answer to Sedivy's complaint. But an indication of dispute as to the jurisdiction of the district court to hear the case consisted of a brief colloquy between the court and counsel at trial, during which Government counsel declined to stipulate to the court's jurisdiction.*fn1

1331(a) provides as follows:

"The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions wherein the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."

To meet this $10,000 requirement, the sum asserted by a plaintiff controls unless it appears "to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount."*fn2 Sedivy's $12,500 claim consists of costs, expressly excluded by the statute, and legal fees, traditionally not awarded by federal courts unless their recovery is provided for by statute or contract.*fn3 It appears, therefore, that Sedivy's claim, at least at this point of the litigation, does not satisfy § 1331.*fn4 The fact that the Government has not answered the complaint should not bind it to Sedivy's jurisdictional allegation, especially in light of the Government's refusal to stipulate jurisdiction at trial.

Furthermore, since the federal courts are courts of limited, not general, jurisdiction, it is incumbent on them to exercise utmost care that they do not act beyond the bounds set for them by Congress and the Constitution.*fn5 Even if the Government had stipulated as to jurisdiction, it remained the duty of the district court to satisfy itself that Sedivy's claim did not appear "to a legal certainty" to be less than $10,000.*fn6 Parties may not through the stipulation device confer jurisdiction on a federal court when jurisdiction does not otherwise exist.*fn7

The majority asserts that Spock v. David*fn8 does not require a remand for jurisdictional findings. The Spock case differs from this case in three significant respects. First, in Spock there was no specific declination to stipulate, as there is here, to the district court's jurisdiction. Secondly, although some of Sedivy's constitutional rights arguably are at issue,*fn9 he does not claim that his First Amendment rights are implicated. The plaintiffs in Spock, on the other hand, sought an injunction against interference with these rights and when freedom of speech is allegedly abridged, courts are likely to be more generous in finding jurisdiction.*fn10 Finally, and probably most importantly, the Spock case involved an appeal from a denial of a preliminary injunction. The Court recognized that the need for expedition at the preliminary hearing because of the involvement of First Amendment rights precluded detailed examination as to whether the matter in controversy requirement had been met. Such a determination, the court reasoned, could be made at the final hearing:

"The district court assumed that jurisdiction of the Federal court was not at issue, at least with respect to the preliminary injunction. In these circumstances it was understandable that no effort was made to introduce evidence directed specifically to the value of the claimed rights. This was, after all, not a final hearing, but a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction. Since as the record of the district court comes before us the allegation of jurisdictional amount remains untraversed, and we cannot say as a legal certainty that the plaintiffs will never be able to establish their jurisdictional amount claim, we must proceed on the same assumption as did the district court."*fn11 (Emphasis supplied)

This Court in Spock went on to indicate that there was a strong likelihood at a final hearing that the plaintiffs could meet the $10,000 requirement.*fn12 The case at hand is in a much different posture. After a hearing, the military authorities were permanently enjoined. There is no further proceeding in which the district court can consider fully the jurisdictional issue; Sedivy, in fact, will now never be required to meet the $10,000 requirement. In sum, Spock would appear to be inapposite.

If consideration of the jurisdictional problem ended here, I would be impelled to urge a dismissal of this case, since it does not appear from the record that the $10,000 requirement has been met. But the Supreme Court, in cases involving pre-induction challenge to the authority of local boards to draft particular individuals, has exhibited some willingness to overlook suspect allegations of amounts in controversy, decide the merits of the dispute, and then remand for a jurisdictional determination if the decision on the merits was in favor of the petitioner. The pre- induction challenge cases are somewhat similar to the present one in that the plaintiffs in both seek to enjoin imminent detention rather than delay their challenges to the detaining agencies' authority until those agencies have acted.*fn13

In Oestereich v. Selective Service System Local Board No. 11,*fn14 a registrant sought an injunction in a district court after a draft board had withdrawn an exemption. The Supreme Court held that the Government could not deprive a ministry student of his statutory exemption after he had turned in his registration certificate to the Government in protest of the Viet Nam War, even though the statute on its face precluded pre-induction judicial review of a registrant's classification. The Court, however, reversed and remanded to the district court "where petitioner must have the opportunity . . . to demonstrate that he meets the jurisdictional requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1331."*fn15

The approach to the jurisdictional question in Oestereich is troublesome. It would seem that if the district court in Oestereich lacked original jurisdiction under § 1331, the Supreme Court would lack jurisdiction to reach the merits of the petitioner's claim. If this be so, the question of the district court's jurisdiction must be addressed and determined in petitioner's favor before an appellate court may reach the merits of petitioner's claim.*fn16

In Fein v. Selective Service System Local Board No. 7,*fn17 the Supreme Court again decided the question whether a petitioner was entitled to pre-induction review without determining whether § 1331 jurisdiction was properly invoked. There, the Court held that the petitioner had no right to pre induction review and that this holding made it "unnecessary to consider in any detail" the § 1331 question.*fn18 Thus, it seems to be a developing practice by the Supreme Court to defer determination of the § 1331 question, at least in cases involving detention similar to that present here, until after deciding whether petitioner would be entitled to review vel non.

Although this approach appears inconsistent with the conventional jurisprudence that jurisdictional determinations be resolved prior to consideration of the merits, it does permit a court to avoid constitutional questions of the type suggested by Justice Harlan in a footnote in his concurring opinion in Oestereich.*fn19 There he asserts that "it is doubtful whether a person may be deprived of his personal liberty without the prior opportunity to be heard by some tribunal competent fully to adjudicate his claims."*fn20 If a person is detained by any authority prior to hearing and is unable to bring suit in federal court because he cannot claim $10,000 in damages, then Justice Harlan's concern must be considered.*fn21 Admittedly, the availability of state court review and the federal writ of habeas corpus may remove the constitutional objections to the absence of § 1331 jurisdiction. But until these constitutional questions are briefed, argued and decided, they remain open.*fn22

In reversing the district court here, we would appear to be following the Supreme Court's lead in Fein. There, as we do here, the Supreme Court found against the petitioner on the merits, thereby rendering a remand to the district court for a jurisdictional determination unnecessary.*fn23

A decision that the § 1331 "matter in controversy" requirement was not met on the record before us would ordinarily require a dismissal. If, in a subsequent suit, Sedivy did successfully invoke § 1331 jurisdiction and the district court then granted relief, we would be required to reverse because of the views enunciated by the majority regarding the merits of the controversy. Thus, by reaching the merits now, we may be conserving, in the long run, judicial resources.*fn24 Although we are following the Supreme Court's lead and possibly promoting the conservation of judicial resources, there nonetheless remains the perplexing, question whether we are being properly deferential to our limited role in the federal system.

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