little doubt that, where a civil court has jurisdiction to determine whether or not a plaintiff is entitled to pay from the United States Government which is withheld by virtue of the action of a court martial, the civil courts may inquire into the validity of such action upon which the withholding is based. But, in no instance, so far as the authorities submitted, or any which I have been able to discover, disclose, has a civil court undertaken to pass upon and determine the validity of a court martial in a proceedings for a declaratory judgment, or to order and direct the officials of the War Department to alter its records, or issue new ones pursuant to the court's judgment with respect to such court martial action. I believe that the principle which controls here is expressly stated by the Supreme Court in the case of Wales v. Whitney, Secretary of the Navy (decided May 4, 1885), 114 U.S. 564, 5 S. Ct. 1050, 1052, 29 L. Ed. 277, as follows:
'But neither the supreme court of the district (now United States District Court for the District of Columbia) nor this court has any appellate jurisdiction over the naval court-martial, nor over offenses which such a court has power to try. Neither of these courts is authorized to interfere with it in the performance of its duty, by way of a writ of prohibition or any order of that nature. The civil courts can relieve a person from imprisonment under order of such court only by writ of habeas corpus, and then only when it is made apparent that it proceeds without jurisdiction. If there is no restraint, there is no right in the civil court to interfere. Its power, then, extends no further than to release the prisoner. It cannot remit a fine, or restore to an office, or reverse the judgment of the military court. Whatever effect the decision of the court may have on the proceedings, orders, or judgments of the military court, is incidental to the order releasing the prisoner. Of course, if there is no prisoner to release, if there is no custody to be discharged, if there is no such restraint as requires relief, then the civil court has no power to interfere with the military court, or other tribunal over w iCh it has by law no appellate jurisdiction.'
I do not understand that the provision of law authorizing a declaratory judgment was intended to give to the court jurisdiction over courts martial proceedings, which it did not theretofore have. The argument of the plaintiff that some right to the relief sought is afforded by the Administrative Act is wholly without merit. In a supporting memorandum filed on behalf of the plaintiff, the definition of the term 'agency,' as used in that Act, is partially stated. What is omitted, however, is that part of the same section which reads as follows:
'Except as to the requirements of section 1002 of this title (not relevant here), there shall be excluded from the operation of this chapter * * * (2) courts martial and military commissions, (3) military or naval authority exercised in the field in time of war or in occupied territory, * * * ' 5 U.S.C.A. 1001(a).
The motion to dismiss the amended complaint will be granted.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.