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Clinton v. Goldsmith

United States Supreme Court


May 17, 1999

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL., PETITIONERS V. JAMES T. GOLDSMITH

Court below: 48 M. J. 84

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Syllabus

OCTOBER TERM, 1998

CLINTON v. GOLDSMITH

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, et al. v. GOLDSMITH

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Armed Forces

No. 98-347.

Argued March 22, 1999

Decided May 17, 1999

After respondent Goldsmith, an Air Force major, defied an order by a superior officer to inform his sex partners that he was infected with HIV and to take measures to block any transfer of bodily fluids during sexual relations, he was convicted by general court-martial of willful disobedience of an order and other offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and sentenced to six years' confinement and partial forfeiture of salary. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, and when Goldsmith sought no review of that decision in the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), his conviction became final. Subsequently, in reliance on a newly enacted statute empowering the President to drop from the rolls of the Armed Forces any officer who had both been sentenced by a court-martial to more than six months' confinement and served at least six months, the Air Force notified Goldsmith that it was taking action to drop him from the rolls. Goldsmith did not immediately contest that proposal, but rather petitioned the Court of Criminal Appeals for extraordinary relief to redress the unrelated alleged interruption of his HIV medication during his incarceration. The court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to act, and it was in Goldsmith's appeal from that determination that he first asserted the claim that the Air Force's action to drop him violated the Ex Post Facto and Double Jeopardy Clauses. The CAAF granted his petition for extraordinary relief and relied on the All Writs Act in enjoining the President and other officials from dropping Goldsmith from the Air Force rolls.

Held: Because the CAAF's process was neither "in aid of" its strictly circumscribed jurisdiction to review court-martial findings and sentences nor "necessary" or "appropriate" in light of a servicemember's alternative opportunities to seek relief, that court lacked jurisdiction to issue an injunction against dropping respondent from the Air Force rolls. Pp. 4-11.

(a) The All Writs Act authorizes "all courts established by Act of Congress [to] issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions." 28 U. S. C. §1651(a). Although military appellate courts are among those so empowered to issue extraordinary writs, see Noyd v. Bond, 395 U. S. 683, 695, n. 7, the All Writs Act does not enlarge those courts' power to issue process "in aid of" their existing statutory jurisdiction, see, e.g, Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service, 474 U. S. 34, 41. The CAAF is accorded jurisdiction by statute to "review the record in [specified] cases reviewed by" the service courts of criminal appeals, 10 U. S. C. §§867(a)(2), (3), which in turn have jurisdiction to "revie[w] court-martial cases," §866(a). Since the Air Force's action to drop respondent from the rolls was an executive action, not a "findin[g]" or "sentence," §867(c), that was (or could have been) imposed in a court-martial proceeding, the elimination of Goldsmith from the rolls appears straightforwardly to have been beyond the CAAF's jurisdiction to review and hence beyond the "aid" of the All Writs Act in reviewing it. Goldsmith's claim that the CAAF has satisfied the "aid" requirement because it protected and effectuated the sentence meted out by the court-martial is beside the point, for two related reasons. First, his court-martial sentence has not been changed; another military agency has simply taken independent action. Second, the CAAF is not given authority, by the All Writs Act or any other source, to oversee all matters arguably related to military Justice, or to act as a plenary administrator even of criminal judgments it has affirmed. The CAAF spoke too expansively when it asserted that Congress intended it to have such broad responsibility. Pp. 4-7.

(b) Even if the CAAF had some seriously arguable basis for jurisdiction in these circumstances, resort to the All Writs Act would still be out of bounds, being unjustifiable either as "necessary" or as "appropriate" in light of alternative remedies available to a servicemember demanding to be kept on the rolls. The All Writs Act invests a court with a power essentially equitable and, as such, not generally available to provide alternatives to other, adequate remedies at law. See, e.g., Carlisle v. United States, The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Souter

Souter, J.

Opinion of the Court

CLINTON v. GOLDSMITH

____ U. S. ____ (1999)

On Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Armed Forces

The challenge here is to the use of the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. §1651(a), by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, to enjoin the President and various military officials from dropping respondent from the rolls of the Air Force. Because that court's process was neither "in aid of " its strictly circumscribed jurisdiction to review court-martial findings and sentences under 10 U. S. C. §867 nor "necessary or appropriate" in light of a servicemember's alternative opportunities to seek relief, we hold that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces lacked jurisdiction to issue the injunction.

I.

Respondent James Goldsmith, a major in the United States Air Force, was ordered by a superior officer to inform his sex partners that he was HIV-positive and to take measures to block any transfer of bodily fluids during sexual relations. Contrary to this order, on two occasions Goldsmith had unprotected intercourse, once with a fellow officer and once with a civilian, without informing either that he was carrying HIV.

As a consequence of his defiance, Goldsmith was convicted by general court-martial of willful disobedience of an order from a superior commissioned officer, aggravated assault with means likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm, and assault consummated by battery, in violation of Articles 90 and 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U. S. C. §§890, 928(b)(1), (a). In 1994, he was sentenced to six years' confinement and forfeiture of $2,500 of his salary each month for six years. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in 1995, and when he sought no review of that decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), his conviction became final, see §871(c)(1)(A).

In 1996, Congress expanded the President's authority by empowering him to drop from the rolls of the Armed Forces any officer who had both been sentenced by a court-martial to more than six months' confinement and served at least six months.*fn1 See National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, 110 Stat. 325, 10 U. S. C. §§1161(b)(2), 1167 (1994 ed., Supp. III).*fn2 In reliance on this statutory authorization, the Air Force notified Goldsmith in 1996 that it was taking action to drop him from the rolls.

Goldsmith did not immediately contest the proposal to drop him, but rather petitioned the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for extraordinary relief under the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. §1651(a), to redress the unrelated alleged interruption of his HIV medication during his incarceration. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to act, and it was in Goldsmith's appeal from that determination that he took the first steps to raise the issue now before us, an entirely new claim that the Air Force's action to drop him from the rolls was unconstitutional. He did not challenge his underlying court-martial conviction (the appeal period for which had expired, see Rule 19(a)(1), CAAF Rules of Practice and Procedure). But he charged that the proposed action violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, U. S. Const., Art. I, §9, cl. 3 (arguing that the statute authorizing it had been enacted after the date of his conviction) and the Double Jeopardy Clause, U. S. Const., Amdt. 5 (arguing that the action would inflict successive punishment based on the same conduct underlying his first conviction). 48 M. J. 84, 89-90 (CAAF 1998). The CAAF, on a division of 3 to 2, granted the petition for extraordinary relief and relied on the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. §1651(a), in enjoining the President and various other Executive Branch officials from dropping respondent from the rolls of the Air Force.*fn3 We granted certiorari, 525 U. S. ___ (1998), and now reverse.*fn4

II.

When Congress exercised its power to govern and regulate the Armed Forces by establishing the CAAF, see U. S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 14; 10 U. S. C. §941; see generally Weiss v. United States, 510 U. S. 163, 166-169 (1994), it confined the court's jurisdiction to the review of specified sentences imposed by courts-martial: the CAAF has the power to act "only with respect to the findings and sentence as approved by the [court-martial's] convening authority and as affirmed or set aside as incorrect in law by the Court of Criminal Appeals." 10 U. S. C. §867(c).*fn5 Cf. Parisi v. Davidson, 405 U. S. 34, 44 (1972) (Court of Military Appeals lacked express authority over claim for discharge based on conscientious objector status). Despite these limitations, the CAAF asserted jurisdiction and purported to justify reliance on the All Writs Act in this case on the view that "Congress intended [it] to have broad responsibility with respect to administration of military Justice," 48 M. J., at 86-87,*fn6 a position that Goldsmith urges us to adopt. This we cannot do.

While the All Writs Act authorizes employment of extraordinary writs, it confines the authority to the issuance of process "in aid of" the issuing court's jurisdiction. 28 U. S. C. §1651(a) ("[A]ll courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law"). Thus, although military appellate courts are among those empowered to issue extraordinary writs under the Act, see Noyd v. Bond, 395 U. S. 683, 695, n. 7 (1969), the express terms of the Act confine the power of the CAAF to issuing process "in aid of " its existing statutory jurisdiction; the Act does not enlarge that jurisdiction, see, e.g., Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service, 474 U. S. 34, 41 (1985). See also 16 C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure §3932, p. 470 (2d ed. 1996) ("The All Writs Act ... is not an independent grant of appellate jurisdiction"); 19 J. Moore & G. Pratt, Moore's Federal Practice §204.02[4] (3d ed. 1998) ("The All Writs Act cannot enlarge a court's jurisdiction").

We have already seen that the CAAF's independent statutory jurisdiction is narrowly circumscribed. To be more specific, the CAAF is accorded jurisdiction by statute (so far as it concerns us here) to "review the record in [specified] cases reviewed by" the service courts of criminal appeals, 10 U. S. C. §§867(a)(2), (3), which in turn have jurisdiction to "revie[w] court-martial cases," §866(a). Since the Air Force's action to drop respondent from the rolls was an executive action, not a "findin[g]" or "sentence," §867(c), that was (or could have been) imposed in a court-martial proceeding,*fn7 the elimination of Goldsmith from the rolls appears straightforwardly to have been beyond the CAAF's jurisdiction to review and hence beyond the "aid" of the All Writs Act in reviewing it.

Goldsmith nonetheless claims that the CAAF has satisfied the "aid" requirement of the Act because it protected and effectuated the sentence meted out by the court-martial. Goldsmith emphasizes that the court-martial could have dismissed him from service, but instead chose to impose only confinement and fines.*fn8 Hence, he says the CAAF merely preserved that sentence as the court-martial imposed it, by precluding additional punishment, which would incidentally violate the Ex Post Facto and Double Jeopardy Clauses. But this is beside the point, for two related reasons. First, Goldsmith's court-martial sentence has not been changed; another military agency has simply taken independent action.*fn9 It would presumably be an entirely different matter if a military authority attempted to alter a judgment by revising a court-martial finding and sentence to increase the punishment, contrary to the specific provisions of the UCMJ, and it certainly would be a different matter when such a judgment had been affirmed by an appellate court. In such a case, as the Government concedes, see Tr. of Oral Arg. 15, 19, 52, the All Writs power would allow the appellate court to compel adherence to its own judgment. See, e.g., United States v. United States Dist. Court for Southern Dist. of N. Y., 334 U. S. 258, 263-264 (1948). Second, the CAAF is not given authority, by the All Writs Act or otherwise, to oversee all matters arguably related to military Justice, or to act as a plenary administrator even of criminal judgments it has affirmed. Simply stated, there is no source of continuing jurisdiction for the CAAF over all actions administering sentences that the CAAF at one time had the power to review. Thus the CAAF spoke too expansively when it held itself to be "empowered by the All Writs Act to grant extraordinary relief in a case in which the court-martial rendered a sentence that constituted an adequate basis for direct review in [the CAAF] after review in the intermediate court," 48 M. J., at 87.*fn10

III.

Even if the CAAF had some seriously arguable basis for jurisdiction in these circumstances, resort to the All Writs Act would still be out of bounds, being unjustifiable either as "necessary" or as "appropriate" in light of alternative remedies available to a servicemember demanding to be kept on the rolls.*fn11 The All Writs Act invests a court with a power essentially equitable and, as such, not generally available to provide alternatives to other, adequate remedies at law. See, e.g., Carlisle v. United States, 517 U. S. 416, 429 (1996) (" `The All Writs Act is a residual source of authority to issue writs that are not otherwise covered by statute' ") (quoting Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction, 474 U. S., at 43). See also 19 Moore's Federal Practice §201.40 ("[A] writ may not be used . . . when another method of review will suffice"). This limitation operates here, since other administrative bodies in the military, and the federal courts, have authority to provide administrative or judicial review of the action challenged by respondent.

In response to the notice Goldsmith received that action was being considered to drop him from the rolls, he presented his claim to the Secretary of the Air Force. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 4-5. If the Secretary takes final action to drop him from the rolls (as he has not yet done), Goldsmith will (as the Government concedes) be entitled to present his claim to the Air Force Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR). This is a civilian body within the military service, with broad-ranging authority to review a servicemember's "discharge or dismissal (other than a discharge or dismissal by sentence of a general court-martial)," 10 U. S. C. §1553(a), or "to correct an error or remove an inJustice" in a military record, §1552(a)(1).*fn12

Respondent may also have recourse to the federal trial courts. We have previously held, for example, that "[BCMR] decisions are subject to judicial review [by federal courts] and can be set aside if they are arbitrary, capricious, or not based on substantial evidence." Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U. S. 296, 303 (1983). A servicemember claiming something other than monetary relief may challenge a BCMR's decision to sustain a decision to drop him from the rolls (or otherwise dismissing him) as final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. §551 et seq.; see §§704, 706. For examples of such challenges entertained in the district courts or courts of appeals, see Roelofs v. Secretary of Air Force, 628 F. 2d 594, 599-601 (CADC 1980) (proceeding in District Court under APA raising due process challenge to administrative discharge based on conviction of civilian offense); Walker v. Shannon, 848 F. Supp. 250, 251, 254-255 (DC 1994) (suit under APA for review of Army BCMR decision upholding involuntary separation). In the instances in which a claim for monetary relief may be framed, a servicemember may enter the Court of Federal Claims with a challenge to dropping from the rolls (or other discharge) under the Tucker Act, 28 U. S. C. §1491.*fn13 See, e.g., Doe v. United States, 132 F. 3d 1430, 1433-1434 (CA Fed. 1997) (suit for backpay and correction of military records following administrative discharge); Mitchell v. United States, 930 F. 2d 893, 896-897 (CA Fed. 1991) (suit for backpay, reinstatement, and correction of records). Or he may enter a district court under the "Little Tucker Act," 28 U. S. C. §1346(a)(2).*fn14 See, e.g., Thomas v. Cheney, 925 F. 2d 1407, 1411, 1416 (CA Fed. 1991) (reviewing challenge to action to drop plaintiff from the rolls); Sibley v. Ball, 924 F. 2d 25, 29 (CA1 1991) (transferring to Federal Circuit case for backpay because within purview of "Little Tucker Act").

In sum, executive action to drop respondent from the rolls falls outside of the CAAF's express statutory jurisdiction, and alternative statutory avenues of relief are available. The CAAF's injunction against dropping respondent from the rolls of the Air Force was neither "in aid of [its] jurisdictio[n]" nor "necessary or appropriate." Accordingly, we reverse the court's judgment.

It is so ordered.


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