MCLUCAS V. DECHAMPLAIN, 421 U. S. 21 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McLucas v. DeChamplain, 421 U.S. 21 (1975)

McLucas v. DeChamplain

No. 73-1346

Argued December 9, 1974

Decided April 15, 1975

421 U.S. 21


Appellee, an Air Force master sergeant whose court-martial conviction for violations of Art. 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice involving, inter alia, unauthorized use of classified documents and information, had been reversed for improper admission of certain evidence, and whose retrial was about to commence, filed this action for injunctive relief in Federal District Court against appellant military authorities, asserting that Art. 134 was unconstitutionally vague and that certain limitations imposed by the military authorities on the defense's pretrial access to classified documents in issue denied him due process and effective assistance of counsel. The District Court preliminarily enjoined appellants from proceeding with the court-martial on the Art. 134 charges, and also on any other charges unless civilian defense counsel and certain other persons were allowed unlimited access to documents material to the defense. The court held that the circumstances justified an exception to the rule requiring a serviceman to exhaust his military remedies before a federal court will interfere with court-martial proceedings, that the unconstitutionality of Art. 134 was clear from the Courts of Appeals decisions in Avrech v. Secretary of the Navy, 155 U.S.App.D.C. 352, 477 F.2d 1237, and Levy v. Parker, 478 F.2d 772, that the restrictions placed on access to documents were excessive, and that appellee had adequately shown irreparable injury. Appellants directly appealed to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1252, which allows appeal from

"an interlocutory or final judgment, decree or order of any court of the United States . . . holding an Act of Congress unconstitutional in any civil action . . . to which the United States or any of its agencies, or any officer or employee thereof, as such officer or employee, is a party."


1. Whether a three-judge district court was or was not required under 28 U.S.C. § 2282 as to appellee's Art. 134 claim, the case is properly before this Court on appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1252, since it is a civil action, appellants are officers of the United States chanrobles.com-red

Page 421 U. S. 22

acting in their official capacities, Art. 134 is an "Act of Congress," and "the basis of the decision below, in fact, was that the Act of Congress was unconstitutional," United States v. Raines, 362 U. S. 17, 362 U. S. 20. Pp. 421 U. S. 27-32.

2. Under this Court's decisions in Parker v. Levy, 417 U. S. 733, and Secretary of the Navy v. Avrech, 418 U. S. 676, holding that Art. 134 is not unconstitutionally vague, appellee's constitutional claim as to Art. 134 is clearly insubstantial, and must be dismissed. P. 421 U. S. 32.

3. Relief as to appellee's access claim is squarely precluded by this Court's holding in Schlesinger v. Councilman, 420 U. S. 738, that

"when a serviceman charged with crimes by military authorities can show no harm other than that attendant to resolution of his case in the military court system, the federal district courts must refrain from intervention,"

and hence the "unlimited access" aspect of appellee's suit must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Pp. 421 U. S. 33-34.

367 F.Supp. 1291, vacated and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 421 U. S. 34.