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McGee v. United States

United States Supreme Court
402 U.S. 479 (1971)


Facts

In 1966, McGee (defendant) was eligible for a draft deferment based on his undergraduate enrollment. McGee submitted an application to his local draft board, seeking status as a conscientious objector. McGee also sent a letter to the president of the United States with his burned draft card and an explanation that, although he was probably qualified for a deferment based on his acceptance into a graduate program, he remained a conscientious objector. A copy of the letter was forwarded to the local draft board. After McGee completed his undergraduate program, the draft board denied his conscientious-objector claim, classified him as eligible for service, and sent him a questionnaire asking for his current information and plans. McGee returned a blank questionnaire and an unopened notice of his rights and options for appealing the classification. McGee was charged in federal district court with failing to submit for induction and three related offenses. McGee was not permitted to assert a defense that the local draft board had improperly classified him as eligible for service. McGee was convicted in district court on all counts. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that McGee’s failure to exhaust his administrative remedies barred him from presenting an improper-classification defense. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the exhaustion doctrine applied.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

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Dissent (Douglas, J.)

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