Parker v. Levy 417 U.S. 733 (1974)

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PARKER v. LEVY 417 U.S. 733 (1974)

In a celebrated trial of the vietnam war era, Captain Howard Levy, an Army physician, was convicted by court martial for violating provisions of the uniform code of military justice that penalized willful disobedience of the lawful command of a superior officer, "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," and conduct "to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces." The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had held that these provisions were unconstitutionally vague in violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and over-broad in violation of the first amendment.

justice william h. rehnquist, for the Supreme Court, reversed and upheld Levy's conviction. Rehnquist's opinion rejected the contention that the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were too vague and overbroad. "The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it," he wrote. Justices william o. douglas, william j. brennan, thurgood marshall, and potter stewart dissented. The last wrote, "I cannot believe that such meaningless statutes as these can be used to send men to prison under a Constitution that guarantees due process of law."

Michael E. Parrish

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Parker v. Levy 417 U.S. 733 (1974)

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