Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., Nos. 91-3271

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Writing for the CourtBefore ARCHER, Circuit Judge, COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge, and CLEVENGER; COWEN
Citation951 F.2d 1247
PartiesYusuf D. AMIN, Petitioner, v. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, Respondent, and Department of Agriculture, Intervenor. Michael A. LAVENDER, Petitioner, v. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, Respondent, v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Intervenor.
Docket NumberNos. 91-3271,91-3281
Decision Date17 December 1991

Page 1247

951 F.2d 1247
Yusuf D. AMIN, Petitioner,
v.
MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, Respondent,
and
Department of Agriculture, Intervenor.
Michael A. LAVENDER, Petitioner,
v.
MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, Respondent,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Intervenor.
Nos. 91-3271, 91-3281.
United States Court of Appeals,
Federal Circuit.
Dec. 17, 1991.

Page 1249

Yusuf D. Amin, pro se.

Michael A. Lavender, pro se.

Mary Jennings, Merit Systems Protection Bd., Washington, D.C., argued for respondent. With her on the brief were Sara B. Rearden, Acting Asst. General Counsel and Michael K. Martin, Attorney. Of counsel were Martha B. Schneider, Patricia A. Price and Llewellyn M. Fischer. Reginal T. Blades, Jr., Dept. of Justice, of Washington, D.C., argued for intervenor. With him on the brief were David M. Cohen, Sharon Y. Eubanks and Jeanne L. Davidson.

Before ARCHER, Circuit Judge, COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge, and CLEVENGER, Circuit Judge.

COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge.

In these cases, which have been consolidated for the purposes of this decision, the court is called upon to resolve the issues presented in two distinct but related controversies.

The first issue is whether under the provisions of 5 U.S.C.A. § 7703(a)(2) (West Supp.1991), the employing agencies, rather than the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board), should be designated as the respondent in the two appeals. This question, which we refer to as the "Caption Issue," comes before the court on motion of the Department of Agriculture (Agriculture) in the Amin appeal and that of the United States Postal Service (Postal Service) in the Lavender appeal to reform the caption to reflect the employing agency as the respondent in each appeal. For the reasons to be set forth, we grant both motions.

The second issue involves the merits of the appeals of Yusuf D. Amin and Michael A. Lavender from the decisions of the MSPB in docket numbers SF07529010818 and ATO7529010121, respectively. We affirm the Board's decision in both appeals.

I.

The Caption Issue

Background

Petitioners Amin and Lavender appealed their removal to the MSPB and entered into settlement agreements before the Board which resolved their appeals. Mr. Lavender subsequently alleged that the Postal Service breached the settlement by reinstating his removal and filed a petition with the Board to enforce compliance with the agreement. The administrative judge (AJ) denied his petition after determining that the petitioner did not comply with the terms of the settlement agreement. Mr. Amin petitioned the Board to set aside the settlement agreement, maintaining that his attorney lacked authority to enter into the settlement. The Board denied his petition for review.

When the petitions for review were filed in this Court, the Clerk named the Department of Agriculture and the United States Postal Service as the respondents. By letters to the Clerk, the MSPB requested him to recaption the cases to designate the MSPB as the respondent in each case pursuant to 5 U.S.C.A. § 7703(a)(2). Thereafter, the Clerk recaptioned each case by designating the Board as the respondent.

Judicial review of decisions of the MSPB is provided for in 5 U.S.C.A. § 7703, which provides that an employee or applicant for employment may file in this court a petition for review of an adverse MSPB final decision or order. Section 7703(a)(2) governs the designation of the respondent to a petition for review. Prior to its revision in 1989, § 7703(a)(2) provided that:

[t]he Board shall be the named respondent in any proceeding brought pursuant

Page 1250

to this subsection, unless the employee or applicant for employment seeks review of a final order or decision issued by the Board under section 7701. In review of a final order or decision issued under section 7701, the agency responsible for taking the action appealed to the Board shall be the named respondent.

The court construed the unamended version of § 7703(a)(2) on several occasions. In Hopkins v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd., 725 F.2d 1368 (Fed.Cir.1984), petitioner appealed from a decision of the MSPB, dismissing his request for attorney fees on grounds of untimeliness. Both the MSPB and the Department of Justice raised the issue of which agency was the appropriate respondent. The court reasoned that the "agency responsible for taking the action" was the touchstone for determining who was the proper respondent in an appeal from a Board decision. Id. at 1372. The court determined that the action for which petitioner sought review involved MSPB procedural regulations governing the timeliness of attorney fee requests for which the employing agency had no responsibility or involvement. Therefore, the court concluded that the Board, not the employing agency, was the proper respondent in the case. In support of its conclusion, the court cited two prior decisions, Rosano v. Department of the Navy, 699 F.2d 1315, 1316 n. 4 (Fed.Cir.1983) and Phillips v. United States Postal Serv., 695 F.2d 1389, 1390 n. 2 (Fed.Cir.1982), both of which state in a footnote that the MSPB should be the respondent in appeals from dismissals for lack of jurisdiction and untimeliness.

In Hagmeyer v. Department of Treasury, 852 F.2d 531 (Fed.Cir.1988), the court, sitting en banc, overruled Hopkins, noting that "[i]n spite of an apparent desire by the Hopkins panel to establish a workable rule, that decision has generated some confusion and/or criticism in later cases...." 852 F.2d at 534.

The court concluded that in view of the plain meaning of the statute, which was fully supported by the legislative history, the employing agency should be designated the respondent in every petition for review of an MSPB final decision or order rendered under § 7701.

Shortly after the Hagmeyer decision, Congress amended § 7703(a)(2) as part of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Pub.L. 101-12, 103 Stat. 16 (1989). The amendment which has been codified as 5 U.S.C.A. § 7703(a)(2) provides:

The Board shall be named respondent in any proceeding brought pursuant to this subsection, unless the employee or applicant for employment seeks review of a final order or decision on the merits on the underlying personnel action or on a request for attorney fees, in which case the agency responsible for taking the personnel action shall be the respondent.

(Emphasis added).

The legislative history 1 shows that Hagmeyer prompted the changes to the statutory text:

Until January 1987, the Board had the authority to defend some of its decisions in court. Up until that time, the Federal Circuit Court had issued a series of decisions holding that the Board was the appropriate statutory respondent in cases involving jurisdictional and procedural issues where the merits of the underlying personnel action was not at issue (e.g., Hopkins v. MSPB, (725 F.2d 287 [sic, 725 F.2d 1368] (Fed.Cir.1984)). However, in Hagmeyer v. Department of Treasury, (809 F.2d 1581 (Fed.Cir.1987)), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed its own precedent and held that the employing agency should be the respondent in all employee appeals to that court.

Page 1251

S. 508 would reverse the Hagmeyer decision and provide the Board with the litigating authority established under Hopkins and similar decisions. The bill would provide that the Board be the respondent in appeals involving jurisdictional and procedural matters, which are matters purely within the Board's jurisdiction, which [sic, while] the employing agency would be the respondent in cases involving the underlying personnel action or attorney's fees.

S.Rep. No. 413, 100th Cong., 2d Sess., 21-22 (1988).

The Senate report further explains:

Section 12 amends 7703(a)(2) of USC 5 to provide that the relevant agency be the named respondent in employee appeals of Board decisions where the appeal involves the underlying personnel action or a request for attorney fees. In appeals involving procedural or jurisdictional matters, the Board would be the respondent.

Id. at 36.

Discussion

We first consider and reject the Board's contention that the court should not look to the legislative history of the 1989 amendment to § 7703(a)(2), because, according to the Board, the plain meaning of the statute requires that the MSPB be named respondent in these appeals. In its brief in Mr. Amin's case, the Board stated:

The agency's Motion to Reform [the] Caption raises a question of first impression before this Court: who is the proper respondent in an appeal which the Board dismissed on the basis of a settlement agreement.

Respondent's brief at 4.

We view this statement as a recognition by the Board that the court is confronted in these appeals with "exceptional circumstances." In such cases, consideration of the legislative history is both appropriate and justified. See Burlington N. R.R. Co. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n, 481 U.S. 454, 461, 107 S.Ct. 1855, 1859-60, 95 L.Ed.2d 404 (1987). Moreover, the court examined the legislative history of the prior version of § 7703(a)(2) in Hopkins and Hagmeyer. Because the Senate Report states explicitly that the amended statute overrules Hagmeyer, we are presented with a compelling reason to resort to the legislative history. We must review the history to ascertain why Congress took this action and what is intended by the amendments to the preceding statute. Cf. Train v. Colorado Pub. Interest Research Group, Inc., 426 U.S. 1, 9-11, 96 S.Ct. 1938, 1942-43, 48 L.Ed.2d 434 (1976) (Court of Appeals erred in refusing to consider legislative history to determine whether the obvious meaning of certain language was in fact the intended meaning).

When the 1989 Act is examined in connection with the legislative history, we think it is abundantly clear that in overruling Hagmeyer, Congress intended that the Board shall be...

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35 practice notes
  • Tesh v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 01-CV-0099-EA(J).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • March 26, 2002
    ...v. Office of Personnel Management, 985 F.2d 1070, 1072 (Fed.Cir.1993) (same; quoting Spruill); and Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., 951 F.2d 1247, 1251-52 (Fed.Cir.1991) (discussing history and purpose of the current procedure/merits dichotomy in § The parties do not directly address t......
  • Spruill v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., No. 91-3245
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • October 22, 1992
    ...personnel action shall be the respondent. (The newly enacted language is emphasized). Page 684 In Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., 951 F.2d 1247 (Fed.Cir.1991), the court was called upon to apply the amended § 7703(a)(2). Two petitioners (whose cases were consolidated) appealed their i......
  • Forshey v. Principi, No. 99-7064.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • April 1, 2002
    ...equated with the absence of substantive evidence. Rebutting a presumption requires affirmative proof. See Amin v. Merit Sys. Prot. Bd., 951 F.2d 1247, 1254 (Fed.Cir.1991). Forshey correctly argues that the government failed to offer affirmative proof that the veteran's death was proximately......
  • US v. Dantzler Lumber & Export Co., Court No. 90-11-00600.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of International Trade
    • September 29, 1993
    ...end, the motion cites United States v. Beebe, 180 U.S. 343, 21 S.Ct. 371, 45 L.Ed. 563 (1901); Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Board, 951 F.2d 1247 (Fed.Cir.1991); Matzo v. Postmaster General, 685 F.Supp. 260 (D.D.C. 1987); Capital Dredge & Dock Corp. v. City of Detroit, 800 F.2d 525 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • Tesh v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 01-CV-0099-EA(J).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • March 26, 2002
    ...v. Office of Personnel Management, 985 F.2d 1070, 1072 (Fed.Cir.1993) (same; quoting Spruill); and Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., 951 F.2d 1247, 1251-52 (Fed.Cir.1991) (discussing history and purpose of the current procedure/merits dichotomy in § The parties do not directly address t......
  • Spruill v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., No. 91-3245
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • October 22, 1992
    ...personnel action shall be the respondent. (The newly enacted language is emphasized). Page 684 In Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., 951 F.2d 1247 (Fed.Cir.1991), the court was called upon to apply the amended § 7703(a)(2). Two petitioners (whose cases were consolidated) appealed their i......
  • Forshey v. Principi, No. 99-7064.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • April 1, 2002
    ...equated with the absence of substantive evidence. Rebutting a presumption requires affirmative proof. See Amin v. Merit Sys. Prot. Bd., 951 F.2d 1247, 1254 (Fed.Cir.1991). Forshey correctly argues that the government failed to offer affirmative proof that the veteran's death was proximately......
  • US v. Dantzler Lumber & Export Co., Court No. 90-11-00600.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of International Trade
    • September 29, 1993
    ...end, the motion cites United States v. Beebe, 180 U.S. 343, 21 S.Ct. 371, 45 L.Ed. 563 (1901); Amin v. Merit Systems Protection Board, 951 F.2d 1247 (Fed.Cir.1991); Matzo v. Postmaster General, 685 F.Supp. 260 (D.D.C. 1987); Capital Dredge & Dock Corp. v. City of Detroit, 800 F.2d 525 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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