Sampson v. Murray 8212 403, No. 72

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
PartiesArthur F. SAMPSON, Administrator, General Services Administration, et al., Petitioners, v. Jeanne M. MURRAY —403
Docket NumberNo. 72
Decision Date19 February 1974

415 U.S. 61
94 S.Ct. 937
39 L.Ed.2d 166
Arthur F. SAMPSON, Administrator, General Services Administration, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Jeanne M. MURRAY

No. 72—403.
Argued Nov. 14, 1973.
Decided Feb. 19, 1974.

Syllabus

Upon being notified that she was going to be discharged on a specific date from her position as a probationary Government employee, respondent filed this action claiming that the applicable Civil Service regulations for discharge of probationary employees had not been followed, and seeking a temporary injunction against her dismissal pending an administrative appeal to the Civil Service Commission (CSC). The District Court granted a temporary restraining order, and after an adversary hearing at which the Government declined to produce the discharging official as a witness to testify as to the reasons for the dismissal, ordered the temporary injunctive relief continued. The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the Government's contention that the District Court had no authority to grant temporary injunctive relief in this class of cases, and holding that the relief granted was within the permissible bounds of the District Court's discretion. Held: While the District Court is not totally without authority to grant interim injunctive relief to a discharged Government employee, nevertheless under the standards that must govern the issuance of such relief the District Court's issuance of the temporary injunctive relief here cannot be sustained. Pp. 68—92.

(a) The District Court's authority to review agency action, Service v. Dulles, 354 U.S. 363, 77 S.Ct. 1152, 1 L.Ed.2d 1403, does not come into play until it may be authoritatively said that the administrativedecision to discharge an employee does in fact fail to conform to the applicable regulations, and until administrative action has become final, no court is in a position to say that such action did or did not conform to the regulations. Here the District Court authorized, on an interim basis, relief that the CSC had neither considered nor authorized—the mandatory reinstatement of respondent in her Government position. Scripps-Howard Radio, Inc. v. FCC, 316 U.S. 4, 62 S.Ct. 875, 86 L.Ed. 1229; FTC v. Dean Foods Co., 384 U.S. 597, 86 S.Ct. 1738, 16 L.Ed.2d 802, distinguished. Pp. 71—78.

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(b) Considering the disruptive effect that the grant of temporary relief here was likely to have on the administrative process, and in view of the historical denial of all equitable relief by federal courts in disputes involving discharge of Government employees; the well-established rule that the Government be granted the widest latitude in handling its own internal affairs; and the traditional unwillingness of equity courts to enforce personal service contracts, the Court of Appeals erred in routinely applying the traditional standards governing more orthodox 'stays,' and respondent at the very least must show irreparable injury sufficient in kind and degree to override the foregoing factors. Pp. 78—84.

(c) Viewing the order at issue as a preliminary injunction, the Court of Appeals erred in suggesting that at this stage of the proceeding the District Court need not have concluded that there was actually irreparable injury, and in intimating that, as alleged in respondent's unverified complaint, either loss of earnings or damage to reputation might afford a basis for a finding of irreparable injury. Pp. 84—92.

149 U.S.App.D.C. 256, 462 F.2d 871, reversed.

Keith A. Jones, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Thomas J. McGrew, Washington, D.C., for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent is a probationary employee in the Public Buildings Service of the General Services Administration (GSA). In May 1971, approximately four months

Page 63

after her employment with GSA began, she was advised in writing by the Acting Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, W. H. Sanders, that she would be discharged from her position on May 29, 1971. She then filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to temporarily enjoin her dismissal pending her pursuit of an administrative appeal to the Civil Service Commission. The District Court granted a temporary restraining order, and after an adversary hearing extended the interim injunctive relief in favor of respondent until the Acting Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service testified about the reasons for respondent's dismissal.

A divided Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed,1 rejecting the Government's contention that the District Court had no authority whatever to grant temporary injunctive relief in this class of cases, and holding that the relief granted by the District Court in this particular case was within the permissible bounds of its discretion. We granted certiorari, sub nom. Kunzig v. Murray, 410 U.S. 981, 93 S.Ct. 1494, 36 L.Ed.2d 177 (1973). We agree with the Court of Appeals that the District Court is not totally without authority to grant interim injunctive relief to a discharged Government employee, but conclude that, judged by the standards which we hold must govern the issuance of such relief, the issuance of the temporary injunctive relief by the District Court in this case cannot be sustained.

I

Respondent was hired as a program analyst by the Public Buildings Service after previous employment in the Defense Intelligence Agency. Under the regulations

Page 64

of the Civil Service Commission, this career conditional appointment was subject to a one-year probationary period.2 Applicable regulations provided that respondent, during this initial term of probation, could be dismissed without being afforded the greater procedural advantages available to permanent employees in the competitive service.3 The underlying dispute between the parties arises over whether the more limited procedural requirements applicable to probationary employees were satisfied by petitioners in this case.

The procedural protections which the regulations accord to most dismissed probationary employees are limited. Commonly a Government agency may dismiss a probationary employee found unqualified for continued employment simply 'by notifying him in writing as to why he is being separated and the effective date of the action.'4 More elaborate procedures are specified when the ground for terminating a probationary employee is 'for conditions arising before appointment.'5 In such cases the regulations require that the employee receive 'an advance written notice stating the reasons, specifically and in detail, for the proposed action'; that the employee be given an opportunity to respond in writing and to furnish affidavits in support of his response; that the agency 'consider' any answer filed by the employee in reaching its decision; and that the employee be notified of the agency's decision at the earliest practicable date.6 Respondent contends that her termina-

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tion was based in part on her activities while in the course of her previous employment in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and that therefore she was entitled to an opportunity to file an answer under this latter provision.

The letter which respondent received from the Acting Commissioner, notifying her of the date of her discharge, stated that the reason for her discharge was her 'complete unwillingness to follow office procedure and to accept direction from (her) supervisors.' After receipt of the letter, respondent's counsel met with a GSA personnel officer to discuss her situation and, in the course of the meeting, was shown a memorandum prepared by an officer of the Public Buildings Service upon which Sanders apparently based his decision to terminate respondent's employment. The memorandum contained both a discussion of respondent's conduct in her job with the Public Buildings Service and a discussion of her conduct during her previous employment at the Defense

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Intelligence Agency. Relying upon the inclusion of the information concerning her previous employment, respondent's counsel requested that she be given a detailed statement of the charges against her and an opportunity to reply—the procedures to which she would be entitled under the regulations if in fact the basis of her discharge had been conduct during her previous employment. This request was denied.

Respondent then filed an administrative appeal with the Civil Service Commission pursuant to the provisions of 5 CFR § 315.806(c), alleging that her termination was subject to § 315.805 and was not effected in accordance with the procedural requirements of that section.7 While her administrative appeal was pending undecided, she filed this action. Her complaint alleged that the agency had failed to follow the appropriate Civil Service regulations, alleged that her prospective discharge would deprive her of income and cause her to suffer the embarrassment of being wrongfully discharged, and requested a temporary restraining order and interim injunctive relief against her removal from employment pending agency determination of her appeal. The District Court granted the temporary restraining order at the time of the filing of respondent's complaint, and set a hearing on the application for a temporary injunction for the following week.

At the hearing on the temporary injunction, the District Court expressed its desire to hear the testimony of Sanders in person, and refused to resolve the controversy on the basis of his affidavit which the Government offered to furnish. When the Government declined

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to produce Sanders, the court ordered the temporary injunctive relief continued, stating that 'Plaintiff may suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage before the Civil Service Commission can consider Plaintiff's claim.'8 The Government, desiring to test the authority of the...

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1856 practice notes
  • Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, No. 05-5143.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 7, 2006
    ...quotation marks omitted), for "the basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm," Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974) (quoting Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 506, 79 S.Ct. 948, 3 L.Ed.2d 988 (1959)) (......
  • Thornton v. Barnes, No. 88-2464
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 4, 1989
    ...of discretionary powers of government, a decision showing that the office is not simply the employee's property. Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974), concludes that a court generally should not treat deprivation of public employment as irreparable injury. Wie......
  • Covenant v. Trump, No. 18-17274
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • December 7, 2018
    ...the same effect as a preliminary injunction, it is appealable under 909 F.3d 1239 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). Id. (citing Sampson v. Murray , 415 U.S. 61, 86–88, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974) ). We treat a TRO as a preliminary injunction "where an adversary hearing has been held, and the ......
  • Lee Pharmaceuticals v. Kreps, No. 76-2082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 29, 1978
    ...has not yet been applied to it, and there is no final administrative action by which it can be aggrieved. (See Sampson v. Murray (1974) 415 U.S. 61, 74, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166; see also Toilet Goods Association v. Gardner, supra, 387 U.S. at 164-65, 87 S.Ct. 1520.) The entire issue ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1856 cases
  • Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, No. 05-5143.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 7, 2006
    ...quotation marks omitted), for "the basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm," Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974) (quoting Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 506, 79 S.Ct. 948, 3 L.Ed.2d 988 (1959)) (......
  • Thornton v. Barnes, No. 88-2464
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • December 4, 1989
    ...of discretionary powers of government, a decision showing that the office is not simply the employee's property. Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974), concludes that a court generally should not treat deprivation of public employment as irreparable injury. Wie......
  • Covenant v. Trump, No. 18-17274
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • December 7, 2018
    ...the same effect as a preliminary injunction, it is appealable under 909 F.3d 1239 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). Id. (citing Sampson v. Murray , 415 U.S. 61, 86–88, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974) ). We treat a TRO as a preliminary injunction "where an adversary hearing has been held, and the ......
  • Lee Pharmaceuticals v. Kreps, No. 76-2082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 29, 1978
    ...has not yet been applied to it, and there is no final administrative action by which it can be aggrieved. (See Sampson v. Murray (1974) 415 U.S. 61, 74, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166; see also Toilet Goods Association v. Gardner, supra, 387 U.S. at 164-65, 87 S.Ct. 1520.) The entire issue ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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