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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Joseph Anthony Davis
United States
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(argued the cause for the United States)
Facts of the Case 

Joseph Anthony Davis was classified as I-A by a draft board and ordered to report for a physical examination. He failed to report several times. The draft board declared him a delinquent, and issued an order that he be inducted into the Armed Forces. Under 32 CFR Section 1631.7, a draftee could only be ordered to report for induction if he was deemed "acceptable for service" after a physical examination and if the board had mailed him a statement of his status with three weeks' notice. The statute provided an exception for draftees that were declared delinquent, accelerating the process. Davis was convicted in United States District Court for the Central District of California for his failures to report, and he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While his case was pending, the Supreme Court decided Gutknecht v. United States. Gutknecht involved a similar situation, in which a draftee's induction was accelerated by his delinquent status. The Supreme Court declared Gutknecht's conviction invalid. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court, which held that Davis' case was not impacted by Gutknecht. This ruling was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Davis petitioned for certiorari. During this process, the Ninth Circuit ruled in United States v. Fox. Fox involved a situation similar to Davis'. Fox's conviction was reversed by the Ninth Circuit. Meanwhile, Davis' petition for certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court, and he began serving his prison sentence. Davis then challenged his conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255. Davis asserted that in the process of his conviction, the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Fox changed the law. The District Court ruled against him. The Ninth Circuit affirmed on the ground that it had already ruled against him on the same issue. Davis then appealed to the Supreme Court.


Was Davis entitled to challenge his conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255?

Decision: 7 votes for Davis, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 28 USC 2241-2255 (habeas corpus)

Yes. In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that Davis could challenge his conviction under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255. Writing for the majority, Justice Potter Stewart quoted the government's acknowledgment that the Ninth Circuit's opinion was "not consonant with this Court's holding in Sanders v. United States." The Court rejected the government's suggestion that Section 2255 did not apply because Davis' challenge was not grounded in the Constitution. Since "new law has been made...since the trial and appeal" through the Ninth Circuit's later holding in Fox, Davis was entitled to a challenge under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. concurred in part and dissented in part.

Cite this Page
DAVIS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1973/1973_72_1454>.
DAVIS v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1973/1973_72_1454 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"DAVIS v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1973/1973_72_1454.