Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, No. 83-5954

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation84 L.Ed.2d 674,470 U.S. 768,105 S.Ct. 1620
PartiesWayne LINDAHL v. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
Decision Date20 March 1985
Docket NumberNo. 83-5954

470 U.S. 768
105 S.Ct. 1620
84 L.Ed.2d 674
Wayne LINDAHL

v.

OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT.

No. 83-5954.
Argued Dec. 3, 1984.
Decided March 20, 1985.
Syllabus

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) "determine[s] questions of disability and dependency" in administering the Federal Government's disability retirement program. 5 U.S.C. § 8347(c). Its "decisions . . . concerning these matters are final and conclusive and are not subject to review," ibid., except to the extent that administrative review by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is provided by § 8347(d)(1). In 1979, petitioner, who was employed as a security guard at a naval shipyard, was informed by the Navy that he was to be retired on disability resulting from acute and chronic bronchitis, and he did not contest this assessment. But several months after petitioner had been retired, OPM denied his application for a disability retirement annuity on the ground that the evidence failed to establish that his disability was severe enough to prevent him from performing his job. Petitioner appealed to the MSPB, which sustained the denial. He then filed a complaint in the Court of Claims, invoking jurisdiction under 5 U.S.C. § 7703 (which at the time provided for review of MSPB decisions in that court and the regional courts of appeals) and the Tucker Act. He alleged that the MSPB had violated its regulations by placing the burden of proving disability on him rather than requiring the Navy to disprove disability, and that the Navy had dismissed him while he was attempting to obtain disability retirement benefits, in violation of regulations requiring an agency that initiates a disability retirement action to retain the employee pending OPM's resolution of the employee's disability status. After § 7703 was amended in 1982, the case was transferred to the Federal Circuit, which dismissed the complaint as barred by § 8347(c). The court concluded that the plain words of § 8347(c), along with the structure of the civil service laws and the import of a 1980 amendment adding § 8347(d)(2)—which provides for both MSPB and judicial review of involuntary mental disability retirement decisions—overcome the usual presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action, and, except as qualified by § 8347(d)(2), preclude any judicial review of OPM decisions in voluntary disability retirement cases. While acknowledging that courts had previously interpreted § 8347(c) to permit judicial review

Page 769

of alleged legal and procedural errors, the court found that such interpretation was wrong and in any event overruled by the 1980 amendment.

Held:

1. Section 8347(c) does not bar judicial review altogether of an MSPB judgment affirming OPM's denial of a disability retirement claim, but bars review only of factual determinations while permitting review to determine whether "there has been a substantial departure from important procedural rights, a misconstruction of the governing legislation, or some like error 'going to the heart of the administrative determination.' " pp. 778-791.

(a) It is "only upon a showing of 'clear and convincing evidence' of a contrary legislative intent" that access to judicial review will be restricted. Whether a statute precludes judicial review "is determined not only from its express language, but also from the structure of the statutory scheme, its objectives, its legislative history, and the nature of the administrative action involved." Pp. 778-779.

(b) While § 8347(c) plausibly can be read as imposing an absolute bar to judicial review, it also quite naturally can be read as precluding review only of OPM's factual determinations about questions of disability and dependency. Under this latter reading, the factual "question" whether an applicant is disabled is quite distinct from questions of what laws and procedures OPM must apply in administering the Civil Service Retirement Act. In addition, the application of § 8347(c) as completely preclusive is problematic when a disability applicant, as here, challenges not only OPM's determinations but also the standards and procedures used by the MSPB in reviewing those determinations. Finally, Congress' failure to use the unambiguous and comprehensive language in § 8347(c) that it typically uses when intending to bar all judicial review reinforces the possibility that the finality bar may extend only to OPM's factual determinations with respect to disability questions. Pp. 779-780.

(c) Under the Scroggins standard (so-called after Scroggins v. United States, 184 Ct.Cl. 530, 397 F.2d 295, cert. denied, 393 U.S. 952, 89 S.Ct. 376, 21 L.Ed.2d 363), courts prior to the 1980 amendment had interpreted § 8347(c) as allowing for review of legal and procedural errors in disability retirement decisions. There is nothing in the legislative history of the 1980 amendment adding § 8347(d)(2) to suggest that Congress intended to discard the Scroggins standard. To the contrary, the legislative history demonstrates that Congress was well aware of the Scroggins standard, amended § 8347 on its understanding that that standard applied to judicial review of disability retirement decisions generally, and intended that Scroggins review continue except to the extent augmented by the more exacting standards of § 8347(d)(2). Pp. 780-791.

Page 770

2. The Federal Circuit has jurisdiction directly to review MSPB disability retirement decisions pursuant to the jurisdictional grants in 5 U.S.C. § 7703(b)(1), providing that a petition to review a final decision of the MSPB shall be filed in the Federal Circuit, and 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(9), providing the Circuit with exclusive jurisdiction of an appeal from a final decision of the MSPB. Pp. 791-799.

(a) An applicant, such as petitioner, whose appeal is rejected by the MSPB is not required to file a Tucker Act suit in the Claims Court or a district court, and then seek review of any adverse decision in the Federal Circuit. To require such a two-step judicial process would not accord with the jurisdictional framework established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) and the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982 (FCIA). Sections 7703(b)(1) and 1295(a)(9) together provide the Federal Circuit with exclusive jurisdiction over MSPB decisions and do not admit any exceptions for disability retirement claims. Pp. 791-796.

(b) Congress in the FCIA intended to channel those Tucker Act cases in which the Court of Claims performed an appellate function into the Federal Circuit and to leave cases requiring de novo factfinding in the Claims Court and district courts. Review of an MSPB order involving a disability retirement claim not only is explicitly encompassed in the Federal Circuit's jurisdiction, but also makes logical sense, given that the court considers only legal and procedural questions and does not review the factual bases of the administrative decision. A contrary conclusion would result in exactly the sort of "duplicative, wasteful and inefficient" judicial review that the CSRA and FCIA were intended to eradicate. Pp. 796-799.

718 F.2d 391 (Fed.Cir.1983), reversed and remanded.

John Murcko, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioner.

Edwin S. Kneedler, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Page 771

Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) "determine[s] questions of disability and dependency" in administering the Federal Government's provision of annuities to retired employees and their dependents. 5 U.S.C. § 8347(c). Subject to administrative review by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), § 8347(d)(1), OPM's "decisions . . . concerning these matters are final and conclusive and are not subject to review," § 8347(c). This case presents two questions of substantial importance to the administration of the Government's retirement annuity program. The first is whether § 8347(c) bars judicial review altogether of an MSPB judgment affirming the denial by OPM of a disability retirement claim, or bars review only of factual determinations while permitting review for alleged errors of law and procedure. If judicial review is available to the latter, limited extent, a second question arises: whether the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction directly to review MSPB decisions in such cases, or whether an applicant whose appeal is rejected by the MSPB must instead file a Tucker Act claim in the United States Claims Court or a United States district court, from which an appeal could then be taken to the Federal Circuit.

I
A.

These questions implicate a host of overlapping statutory schemes, which we review before turning to the case at hand.

The Civil Service Retirement Act (Retirement Act).1 Government employees who are covered by the Retirement

Page 772

Act are required to contribute a portion of their salaries to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. 5 U.S.C. §§ 8334(a), (b). The amount of retirement annuity is based on the employee's average pay and years of federal service. § 8339. The Retirement Act provides for several types of annuities; at issue here are disability retirement annuities. Pursuant to § 8337, a covered employee who has completed at least five years of federal civilian service is eligible for an immediate annuity if found "disabled," whether he is retired on his own application ("voluntary" retirement) or on the application of his employing agency ("involuntary" retirement). § 8337(a).2

Although the Retirement Act at no time has contained a general judicial review provision, this Court concluded almost 50 years ago that a retired employee may secure judicial review of an agency denial of his annuity claim by invoking the district courts' Tucker Act jurisdiction to entertain monetary claims against the United States. Dismuke v. United States, 297 U.S. 167, 56 S.Ct. 400, 80 L.Ed. 561 (1936). The Court reasoned:...

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433 practice notes
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
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    ...alien’).” Id. at 765 (citing Maldonado v. Fasano, 67 F.Supp.2d 1170, 1173-74 (S.D.Cal.1999) (citing Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Mgmt., 470 U.S. 768, 779-80, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985)); Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592, 603, 108 S.Ct. 2047, 100 L.Ed.2d 632 (1988)). We find the rea......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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    ...and chairman of the sponsoring committee whose remarks are entitled to particular weight. See Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985). All legislative history expressly addressing the possible diversion of income from the exchanges indi......
  • Griffith v. Federal Labor Relations Authority, No. 86-5720
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    ...however, that the clear and convincing evidence standard is neither a "talismanic test," Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 778, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 1627, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985), nor an irrebuttable presumption, Block v. Community Nutrition Institute, 467 U.S. 340, 349, 104......
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    • September 22, 1992
    ...scheme of administrative and judicial review. Fausto, 484 U.S. at 445, 108 S.Ct. at 672; Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 773, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 1624, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 5 Once IHS has corrected any inconsistency between its conflict of interest regulations and statutory I......
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435 cases
  • Texas State Com'n for the Blind v. U.S., No. 85-1954
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • June 26, 1986
    ...and chairman of the sponsoring committee whose remarks are entitled to particular weight. See Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985). All legislative history expressly addressing the possible diversion of income from the exchanges indi......
  • Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Rhoades, Civ. No. 89-0401 JP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • September 22, 1992
    ...scheme of administrative and judicial review. Fausto, 484 U.S. at 445, 108 S.Ct. at 672; Lindahl v. Office of Personnel Management, 470 U.S. 768, 773, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 1624, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 5 Once IHS has corrected any inconsistency between its conflict of interest regulations and statutory I......
  • Firemen's Ins. Co. v. Kline & Son Cement Repair, No. CIV. 3:06CV425.
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    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • February 13, 2007
    ...giving words that are not expressly defined their "usual, ordinary, and popular meaning."); see also Lindahl v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 470 U.S. 768, 775, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985) (referring to "chemical irritants" that aggravated the plaintiff's bronchitic condition); Assicuraz......
  • Murphy ex rel. Estate of Payne v. U.S., No. 3:03CV500 (MRK).
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    ...as exemplifying the kind of language Congress uses when it "intends to bar judicial review altogether." Lindahl v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., 470 U.S. 768, 779-80 n. 13, 105 S.Ct. 1620, 84 L.Ed.2d 674 (1985); see also Staacke v. United States Sec. of Labor, 841 F.2d 278, 281 (9th Cir.1988) ("Si......
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