Garner v. Board of Public Works of City of Los Angeles

Citation71 S.Ct. 909,95 L.Ed. 1317,341 U.S. 716
Decision Date04 June 1951
Docket NumberNo. 453,453
PartiesGARNER et al. v. BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS OF CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. Charles J. Katz, Los Angeles, Cal., Samuel Rosenwein, New York City, for petitioners.

Mr. Alan G. Campbell, Los Angeles, Cal., for respondents.

Mr. Justice CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1941 the California Legislature amended the Charter of the City of Los Angeles to provide in part as follows:

'* * * no person shall hold or retain or be eligible for any public office or employment in the service of the City of Los Angeles, in any office or department thereof, either elective or appointive, who has within five (5) years prior to the effective date of this section advised, advocated or taught, or who may, after this section becomes effective (April 28, 1941), advise, advocate or teach, or who is now or has been within five (5) years prior to the effective date of this section, or who may, after this section becomes effective, become a member of or affiliated with any group, society, association, organization or party which advises, advocates or teaches, or has, within said period of five (5) years, advised, advocated or taught the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States of America or of the State of California.

'In so far as this section may be held by any court of competent jurisdiction not to be self-executing, the City Council is hereby given power and authority to adopt appropriate legislation for the purpose of effectuating the objects hereof.' Cal.Stat.1941, c. 67, p. 3409, § 432.

Pursuant to the authority thus conferred the City of Los Angeles in 1948 passed ordinance No. 94,004 requiring every person who held an office or position in the service of the city to take an oath prior to January 6, 1949. In relevant part the oath was as follows: 'I further swear (or affirm) that I do not advise, advocate or teach, and have not within the period beginning five (5) years prior to the effective date of the ordinance requiring the making of this oath or affirmation, advised, advocated or taught, the overthrow by force, violence or other unlawful means, of the Government of the United States of America or of the State of California and that I am not now and have not, within said period, been or become a mem- ber of or affiliated with any group, society, association, organization or party which advises, advocates or teaches, or has, within said period, advised, advocated or taught, the overthrow by force, violence or other unlawful means of the Government of the United States, or of the State of California. I further swear (or affirm) that I will not, while I am in the service of the City of Los Angeles, advise, advocate or teach, or be or become a member of or affiliated with any group, association, society, organization or party which advises, advocates or teaches, or has within said period, advised, advocated or taught, the overthrow by force, violence or other unlawful means, of the Government of the United States of America or of the State of California * * *.'

The ordinance also required every employee to execute an affidavit 'stating whether or not he is or ever was a member of the Communist Party of the United States of America or of the Communist Political Association, and if he is or was such a member, stating the dates when he became, and the periods during which he was, such a member * * *.'

On the final date for filing of the oath and affidavit petitioners were civil service employees of the City of Los Angeles. Petitioners Pacifico and Schwartz took the oath but refused to execute the affidavit. The remaining fifteen petitioners refused to do either. All were discharged for such cause, after administrative hearing, as of January 6, 1949. In this action they sue for reinstatement and unpaid salaries. The District Court of Appeal denied relief. 1950, 98 Cal.App.2d 493, 220 P.2d 958. We granted certiorari, 1951, 340 U.S. 941, 71 S.Ct. 505.

Petitioners attack the ordinance as violative of the provision of Art. I, § 10 of the Federal Constitution that 'No State shall * * * pass any Bill of Attainder, (or) ex post facto Law * * *.' They also contend that the ordinance deprives them of freedom of speech and assembly and of the right to petition for redress of grievances.

Petitioners have assumed that the oath and affidavit provisions of the ordinance present similar constitutional considerations and stand or fall together. We think, however, that separate disposition is indicated.

1. The affidavit raises the issue whether the City of Los Angeles is constitutionally forbidden to require that its employees disclose their past or present membership in the Communist Party or the Communist Political Association. Not before us is the question whether the city may determine that an employee's disclosure of such political affiliation justifies his discharge.

We think that a municipal employer is not disabled because it is an agency of the State from inquiring of its employees as to matters that may prove relevant to their fitness and suitability for the public service. Past conduct may well relate to present fitness; past loyalty may have a reasonable relationship to present and future trust. Both are commonly inquired into in determining fitness for both high and low positions in private industry and are not less relevant in public employment. The affidavit requirement is valid.

2. In our view the validity of the oath turns upon the nature of the Charter amendment (1941) and the relation of the ordinance (1948) to this amendment. Immaterial here is any opinion we might have as to the Charter provision insofar as it purported to apply retrospectively for a five-year period prior to its effective date. We assume that under the Federal Constitution the Charter amendment is valid to the extent that it bars from the city's public service persons who, subsequent to its adoption in 1941, advise, advocate, or teach the violent overthrow of the Government or who are or become affiliated with any group doing so. The provisions operating thus prospectively were a reasonable regulation to protect the municipal service by establishing an employment qualification of loyalty to the State and the United States. Cf. Gerende v. Board of Supervisors of Elections, 1951, 341 U.S. 56, 71 S.Ct. 565. Likewise, as a regulation of political activity of municipal employees, the amendment was reasonably designed to protect the integrity and competency of the service. This Court has held that Congress may reasonably restrict the political activity of federal civil service employees for such a purpose, United Public Workers v. Mitchell, 1947, 330 U.S. 75, 102—103, 67 S.Ct. 556, 570, 571, 91 L.Ed. 754, and a State is not without power to do as much.

The Charter amendment defined standards of eligibility for employees and specifically denied city employment to those persons who thereafter should not comply with these standards. While the amendment deprived no one of employment with or without trial, yet from its effective date it terminated any privilege to work for the city in the case of persons who thereafter engaged in the activity proscribed.

The ordinance provided for administrative implementation of the provisions of the Charter amendment. The oath imposed by the ordinance proscribed to employees activity which had been denied them in identical terms and with identical sanctions in the Charter provision effective in 1941. The five-year period provided by the oath extended back only to 1943.

The ordinance would be ex post facto if it imposed punishment for past conduct lawful at the time it was engaged in. Passing for the moment the question whether separation of petitioners from their employment must be considered as punishment, the ordinance clearly is not ex post facto. The activity covered by the oath had been proscribed by the Charter in the same terms, for the same purpose, and to the same effect over seven years before, and two years prior to the period embraced in the oath. Not the law but the fact was posterior.

Bills of attainder are 'legislative acts * * * that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial * * *.' United States v. Lovett, 1946, 328 U.S. 303, 315, 66 S.Ct. 1073, 1079, 90 L.Ed. 1252. Punishment is a prerequisite. See concurring opinion in Lovett, supra, 328 U.S. at pages 318, 324, 66 S.Ct. at pages 1080, 1083. Whether legislative action curtailing a privilege previously enjoyed amounts to punishment depends upon 'the circumstances attending and the causes of the deprivation.' Cummings v. State of Missouri, 1867, 4 Wall. 277, 320, 18 L.Ed. 356. We are unable to conclude that punishment is imposed by a general regulation which merely provides standards of qualification and eligibility for employment.

Cummings v. State of Missouri, 1867, 4 Wall. 277, 18 L.Ed. 356, and Ex parte Garland, 1867, 4 Wall. 333, 18 L.Ed. 366, the leading cases in this Court applying the federal constitutional prohibitions against bills of attainder, recognized that the guarantees against such legislation were not intended to preclude legislative definition of standards of qualification for public or professional emplyment. Carefully distinguishing an instance of legislative 'infliction of punishment' from the exercise of 'the power of Congress to prescribe qualifications,' the Court said in Garland's case: 'The legislature may undoubtedly prescribe qualifications for the office, to which he must conform, as it may, where it has exclusive jurisdiction, prescribe qualifications for the pursuit of any of the ordinary avocations of life.' 4 Wall. at pages 379—380, 18 L.Ed. 366. See also, Cummings v. State of Missouri, supra, 4 Wall. at pages 318—319, 18 L.Ed. 356. This doctrine was reaffirmed in Dent v....

To continue reading

Request your trial
173 cases
  • First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 24, 1957
    ...287, 250 P.2d 145; Steiner v. Darby, 88 Cal.App.2d 481, 199 P.2d 429), municipal employees (Garner v. Board of Public Works of City of Los Angeles, 341 U.S. 716, 71 S.Ct. 909, 95 L.Ed. 1317, affirming Garner v. Board of Public Works, 98 Cal.App.2d 493, 220 P.2d 958), public school teachers ......
  • Vogel v. Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 21, 1967
    ...to take the oath an opportunity to take it as interpreted and resume their employment.' (Garner v. Board of Public Works of Los Angeles, 341 U.S. 716, 719--724, 71 S.Ct. 909, 912--914, 95 L.Ed. 1317.) The Supreme Court thus reached the same conclusion as the District Court of Appeal had In ......
  • 46 South 52nd St. Corp. v. Manlin
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 18, 1960
    ...... [157 A.2d 383] . on the sidewalk of a public street in Philadelphia. . . The. ... without prior written notification to the City of. Philadelphia. . . The theory. ...250, 72 S.Ct. 725, 96 L.Ed. 919;. Garner v. Board of Public Works of City of Los. ......
  • In re Schlesinger
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • July 18, 1961
    ...... of law in that county with offices in the City. of Pittsburgh. On May 26, 1950, the Committee ... the existing frame of the public mind, a lawyer, who. undertakes voluntarily the ... the Board of Judges of the Court of Common Pleas ... political institutions. Cf. Garner v. Los Angeles. Board, 341 U.S. 716, 71 S.Ct. ... Board of Public Works, 341 U.S. 716, 71 S.Ct. 909, 95. L.Ed 1317. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Garcetti v. Ceballos: judicially muzzling the voices of public sector employees.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 53 No. 2, June 2008
    • June 22, 2008
    ...Court. Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 144 (1983). See, e.g., Adler v. Bd. of Educ., 342 U.S. 485 (1952); Garner v. Bd. of Pub. Works, 341 U.S. 716 (1951); United Pub. Workers v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75 (1947); United States v. Wurzbach, 280 U.S. 396 (103.) Connick, 461 U.S. at 144. Loyalty o......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • The Path of Constitutional Law Suplemmentary Materials
    • January 1, 2007
    ...396, 398, 548, 614-15, 757-60 Garland, Ex parte, 71 U.S. 333, 18 L.Ed. 366 (1866), 791 Garner v. Board of Public Works of Los Angeles, 341 U.S. 716, 71 S.Ct. 909, 95 L.Ed. 1317 (1951), 1531 Gavieres v. United States, 220 U.S. 338, 31 S.Ct. 421, 55 L.Ed. 489 (1911), 1017 Page 1677 Gayle v. B......
  • The Supreme Court and political speech in the 21st century: the implications of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 76 No. 1, September 2012
    • September 22, 2012
    ...12 Fed. Reg. 1935, 1948 (Mar. 21, 1947). (3) Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 500 (1951); see Garner v. Bd. of Pub. Works of L.A., 341 U.S. 716, 723-24 (1951); Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath ("JAFRC'), 341 U.S. 123, 179 (1951) (Douglas, J., concurring); Am. Commc'ns Ass'n......
  • The Fiction of the First Freedom
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 6-2, June 1953
    • June 1, 1953
    ...v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75 (1947). 7 Getende v. Board of Supervisors of Elections, 341 U.S. 56 (1951); Garner v. Board of Public Works, 341 U.S. 716 (1951); Wieman v. Updegraff, 73 S. Ct. 215 Re Jackson, 96 U.S. 727 (1878); Re Rapier, 143 U.S. 110 (1892); Horner v. United States, 143 U.S. 207......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT