State of Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Commission

Decision Date10 February 1947
Docket NumberNo. 84,84
Citation91 L.Ed. 794,67 S.Ct. 544,330 U.S. 127
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 127-129 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Mac. Q. Williamson and James W. Bounds, both of Oklahoma City., Okl., for petitioner.

Mr. Ralph F. Fuchs, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This proceeding brings to this Court* another phase of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 61 et seq. The petitioner, the State of Oklahoma, objects to the enforcement by the United States Civil Service Commission of § 12(a) of the act.1

France Paris has been a member of the State Highway Commission of Oklahoma since January 14, 1943. He was elected chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee for Oklahoma for his third term in February 1942 and he occupied such position continuously until October 18, 1943, when he resigned. On October 12, 1943, the Civil Service Commission issued its letter of charges in the matter of France Paris and the State of Oklahoma, in which it notified Mr. Paris and Oklahoma that information which the Civil Service Commission had received war- ranted an investigation into an alleged improper political activity on the part of France Paris under the provisions of § 12 of the Hatch Act. The charge was that since January 14, 1943, Mr. Paris had been an officer of Oklahoma whose principal employment was and is in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by loans and grants from a Federal agency of the United States and that during such time Mr. Paris also held a political party office, to it, the chairmanship of the State Central Committee above referred to. It later developed that no general election occurred in Oklahoma in 1943. The State Democratic Headquarters had been closed on January 4, 1943, by Mr. Paris and were later reopened during the year under the direct charge of the vicechairman of that committee, we assume prior to Mr. Paris' resignation on October 18, 1943. On June 14 the committee sponsored a 'Victory Dinner' in Oklahoma City. The trial court found as follows:

'This dinner was designed to provide the National Democratic Committee and the State Democratic Committee with funds to discharge a deficit incurred by their political activities and to provide funds for contemplated future activities. It also promoted the sale of war bonds and did result in the sale of approximately $14,500,000.00 in war bonds. The dinner netted the Democratic party, which was conceded to be a political party, approximately $30,000.00. The dinner was staged under the general supervision of the Governor of the state and the details were handled by a committee appointed by the Governor. W. G. Johnston was chairman of this committee. France Paris was an ex officio member of the committee and he advised with the Governor concerning the dinner and called the meeting to order and introduced the toastmaster, but he was not active in planning or arranging the dinner.'

The Civil Service Commission determined that these facts constituted taking an active part in political management and in political campaigns. It considered that the violation warranted Mr. Paris' removal from the office of Highway Commissioner of Oklahoma. It ordered that notice of the aforesaid determinations be given pursuant to § 12(b) of the Hatch Act. This order foreshadowed, if Mr. Paris was not removed, a further order by the Commission under § 12(b) to the appropriate Federal agency that certain highway grants to Oklahoma should be withheld 'in an amount equal to two years compensation' of Mr. Paris.

Pursuant to § 12(c) of the State of Oklahoma, after having received notice of the Civil Service Commission's determination, instituted these proceedings for the review of the order in the proper district court of the United States. That court, D.C., 61 F.Supp. 355, upheld the action of the Civil Service Commission and this action was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. State of Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Commission, 153 F.2d 280. Certiorari was sought and allowed because of the importance of the issues involved in the administration of justice, 328 U.S. 831, 66 S.Ct. 1342, under § 12(c), 53 Stat. 1147, as amended, 54 Stat. 767, and § 240(a) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 347(a).

The state contends that the judgments below are invalid for the following reasons:

'(1) The Hatch Political Activity Act, in so far as it attempts to regulate the internal affairs of a state, is an invasion of the sovereignty of the states in violation of the United States Constitution. It further is invalid as an unlawful delegation of power.

'(2) If valid, the Act applies only to 'active' participation in political management or political campaigns. Such 'active' participation is not shown to be present in this case.

'(3) If valid, the Act did not warrant the United States Civil Service Commission in ordering the removal of a state officer or, alternatively, the application of a penalty to the State of Oklahoma.

'(4) The decisions of the lower courts place an intolerable and unjustified restriction upon the right of an aggrieved person to a complete judicial review under the Hatch Political Activity Act.'

First. The Government's first contention is that the petitioner, the State of Oklahoma, has no standing to attack the constitutionality of § 12. It is argued that the state has no legal capacity to question the manner in which the United States limits the appropriation of funds through § 12(a); that § 12(b) is merely procedural to assure that the statutory requirem nts are observed and that § 12(c) is a safeguard against the exercise of arbitrary power by the Commission, not a permission to wage an attack on the entire arrangement.2

If this contention is treated as an objection to the state's capacity to bring this suit, as no objection was made until the memorandum for the respondent on the petition for certiorari, it would be out of time. A failure to object in the trial court to a party's capacity is a waiver of that defect. Parker v. Motor Boat Sales, 314 U.S. 244, 251, 62 S.Ct. 221, 225, 86 L.Ed. 184. On the other hand, if the contention is treated as meaning that no justiciable controversy as to the constitutionality of § 12(a) exists because petitioner suffers no injury which it may protect legally from the withdrawal by the United States of a portion of a grant-in-aid, the objection, as it questions judicial power to act on that point, is timely although first made in this Court.3 We think that the latter position more correctly reflects respondent's contention. The Commission urges the cases listed in note 2 above as showing that the relation between the state and federal government arising out of grants-in-aid are political and that the order of the Commission that Paris be removed was not mandatory. We therefore treat the issue as properly before us.

The issue is whether Oklahoma can challenge the constitutionality of § 12 on statutory review of a Commission order. Subsection (c) gives to any party aggrieved a judicial review of the Commission order. The review is on the entire record and extends to questions of fact and questions of law. The order is to be affirmed if the court determines that it is 'in accordance with law.' If the court determines the order is not in accordance with law, the proceeding is to be remanded to the Commission 'with directions either to make such determination or order as the court shall determine to be in accordance with law or to take such further proceedings as in the opinion of the court, the law requires.'4 We think the challenge can be made in these review proceedings to the constitutionality of the law upon which the order under review is predicated.

The activities of the Highway Commission of Oklahoma were financed in part by loans and grants from a Federal agency during all the pertinent times. This was the organization of which Paris was a member. During the period in question, January 15, 1943, to October 18, 1943, while Paris was also Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, the United States through allotment by federal statute contributed over $2,000,000 for the highway work of the Oklahoma Commission.5 Nothing indicates that these sums were to be received by Oklahoma otherwise than in accordance with regular statutory appor- tionment among the states of federal highway funds and we assume the sums were to be so received by Oklahoma. Congress may create legally enforceable rights where none before existed. Payments were not made at the unfettered inclination of a federal disbursing officer or highway agency but according to statutory standards, compliance with which entitled Oklahoma to receive her proper share of the federal appropriations for highway construction through state agencies. If it were not for § 12, Oklahoma would have been legally entitled to receive payment from the federal disbursing office of the sums, including the amount that § 12(b) authorizes the Civil Service Commission to require the disbursing or allocating federal agency to withhold from its loans or grants.6 Oklahoma had a legal right to receive federal highway funds by virtue of certain congressional enactments and under the terms therein prescribed. Violation of such a statutory right normally creates a justiciable cause of action even without a specific statutory authorization for review.7 It may be that before the payment of those funds to Oklahoma Congress could have withdrawn the grant without legal responsibility for such action either in its officers or the National Government. Perhaps, before disbursement, it could add of its own free will any additional requirements but when it erected administrative bars, that is, a condition that a part of the allotment might be withheld by action of the Commission, with judicial...

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