330 U.S. 75 (1947), 20, United Public Workers v. Mitchell

Docket Nº:No. 20
Citation:330 U.S. 75, 67 S.Ct. 556, 91 L.Ed. 754
Party Name:United Public Workers v. Mitchell
Case Date:February 10, 1947
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 75

330 U.S. 75 (1947)

67 S.Ct. 556, 91 L.Ed. 754

United Public Workers

v.

Mitchell

No. 20

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 10, 1947

Argued December 3, 1945

Reargued October 17, 1946

[67 S.Ct. 558] APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

1. Under § 3 of the Act of August 24, 1937, 50 Stat. 752, 28 U.S.C. § 380a, a direct appeal to this Court was taken from a judgment of a district court of three judges denying an injunction in a case involving the constitutionality of a federal statute. The case was not docketed in this Court until after 60 days from the time the appeal was allowed. The steps prescribed by Rule 11 of this Court for obtaining a dismissal were not taken by the appellees.

Held: This Court has jurisdiction of the appeal. Pp. 84-86.

(a) The provision of 28 U.S.C. § 380a requiring an appeal thereunder to be docketed in this Court within 60 days from the time the appeal is allowed was not intended to vary Rule 11 of this Court, and does not constitute a limitation on the power of this Court to hear this appeal. Pp. 85-86.

(b) Rule 47 of this Court requires the same practice for appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 380a that Rule 11 does for other appeals. P. 86.

2. Certain employees of the executive branch of the Federal Government sued for an injunction against the members of the Civil Service Commission to prohibit them from enforcing against such employees § 9(a) of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C. Supp. V § 61h, which forbids such employees from taking "any active part in political management or in political campaigns," and also for a declaratory judgment of the unconstitutionality of this section. They did not allege that they had violated the Act or that they actually were threatened with any disciplinary action, but only that they desire to engage in acts of political management and in political campaigns (specifying the nature of the actions which they wish to take) and are prevented from doing so by fear of dismissal from federal employment.

Held: Their suit does not present a justiciable case or controversy. Pp. 86-91.

3. Another employee of the executive branch of the Federal Government brought a similar suit, alleging that he actually had committed

Page 76

specific violations of the Act, and that the Commission had charged him with violations and had issued a proposed order for his removal, subject to his right to reply to the charges and to present further evidence in refutation.

Held: His suit presents a justiciable case or controversy. Pp. 91-94.

(a) Since the employee admits that he violated the Act and that removal from office is therefore mandatory under the Act, there is no question as to exhaustion of administrative remedies. P. 93.

(b) There being no administrative or statutory review for the Commission's order and no prior proceeding pending in the courts, there is no reason why a declaratory judgment action does not lie, even though constitutional issues are involved. P. 93.

4. A person employed as a roller in a United States mint acted outside of working hours as a ward executive committeeman of a political party and was politically active on election day as a worker at the polls and as a paymaster for the services of other workers. The Civil Service Commission found that he had taken an "active part in political management or in political campaigns" in violation of § 9 of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C.Supp. V § 61h, and Rule 1 of the Commission, and issued an order for his removal from federal employment.

Held: Such a breach of the Hatch Act and Rule 1 of the Commission can be made the basis for disciplinary action without violating the Constitution. Pp. 94-104.

(a) Congress has the power to regulate, within reasonable limits, the political conduct of federal employees, in order to promote efficiency and integrity in the public service. Ex parte Curtis, 106 U.S. 371; United States v. Wurzbach, 280 U.S. 396. Pp. 96-103.

(b) The fundamental human rights guaranteed by the First, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments are not absolute, and this Court must balance the extent of the guarantee of freedom against a congressional enactment to protect a democratic society against the supposed evil of political partisanship by employees of the Government. Pp. 95-96.

(c) The Hatch Act permits full participation by federal employees in political decisions at the ballot box, and forbids only the partisan activity deemed offensive to efficiency. P. 99.

(d) It does not restrict public and private expressions on public affairs, personalities, and matters of public interest, not an objective of party action, so long as the government employee does not direct his activities toward party success. P. 100.

(e) If political activity by government employees is harmful

Page 77

to the service, the employees, or people dealing with them, it is hardly less so because it takes place after hours. P. 95.

(f) The prohibition of § 9(a) of the Hatch Act applies without discrimination to all employees of the executive branch of the Government, whether industrial or administrative. P. 102.

(g) Whatever differences there may be between administrative employees of the Government and industrial workers in its employ are differences in detail for the consideration of Congress, so far as the constitutional power here involved is concerned. P. 102.

(h) The determination of the extent to which political activities of government employees shall be regulated lies primarily with Congress, and the courts will interfere only when such regulation passes beyond the generally existing conception of governmental power. P. 102.

5. Acting as ward executive committeeman of a political party and as a worker at the polls is within the prohibitions of § 9 of the Hatch Act and the Civil Service Rules. P. 103.

56 F.Supp. 621, affirmed.

Certain employees of the executive branch of the Federal Government and a union of such employees sued to enjoin the members of the Civil Service Commission from enforcing the provision of § 9(a) of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C. Supp. V § 61h, which forbids such employees to take "any active part in political management or in political campaigns," and for a declaratory judgment holding the Act unconstitutional. The District Court dismissed the suit. 56 F.Supp. 621. A direct appeal to this Court was taken under § 3 of the Act of August 24, 1937, 50 Stat. 752, 28 U.S.C. § 380a. Affirmed, p. 104.

Page 78

REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Hatch Act, * enacted in 1940, declares unlawful certain specified political activities of federal employees.1 Section 9 forbids officers and employees in the executive branch of the Federal Government, with exceptions, from taking "any active part in political management or in political campaigns."2 Section 15 declares [67 S.Ct. 559] that the activities

Page 79

theretofore determined by the United States Civil Service Commission to be prohibited to employees in the classified civil service of the United States by the Civil Service Rules shall be deemed to be prohibited to federal employees covered by the Hatch Act.3 These sections of the Act cover all federal officers and employees, whether in the classified civil service or not, and a penalty of dismissal from employment is imposed for violation. There is no designation of a single governmental agency for its enforcement.

For many years before the Hatch Act, the Congress had authorized the exclusion of federal employees in the competitive classified service from active participation in political management and political campaigns.4 In June, 1938,

Page 80

the congressional authorization for exclusion had been made more effective by a Civil Service Commission disciplinary rule.5 That power to discipline members of the competitive classified civil service continues in the Commission under the Hatch Act by virtue of the present applicability of the Executive Order No. 8705, March 5, 1941. The applicable Civil Service Commission rules are

Page 81

printed in the margin.6 The only change in the Civil Service Rules relating [67 S.Ct. 560] to political activity, caused by the Hatch Act legislation, that is of significance in this case is the elimination, on March 5, 1941, of the word "privately" from the phrase "to express privately their opinions." This limitation to private expression had regulated classified personnel since 1907.7

The present appellants sought an injunction before a statutory three-judge district court of the District of Columbia

Page 82

against appellees, members of the United States Civil Service Commission, to prohibit them from enforcing against appellants the provisions of the second sentence of § 9(a) of the Hatch Act for the reason that the sentence is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.8 A declaratory judgment of the unconstitutionality of the sentence was also sought.9 The sentence referred to reads,

No officer or employee in the executive branch of the Federal Government . . . shall take any active part in political management or in political campaigns.

Various individual employees of the federal executive civil service and the United Public Workers of America,10 a labor union with these and other executive employees as members, as a representative of all its members, joined in the suit. It is alleged that the individuals desire to engage in acts of political management and in political campaigns. Their purposes are as stated in the excerpt from the complaint set out in the margin.11 From the

Page 83

affidavits [67 S.Ct. 561] it is plain, and we so assume, that these activities will be...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP