United States v. Lovett Same v. Watson Same v. Dodd 811 8212 1946, s. 809

Citation66 S.Ct. 1073,90 L.Ed. 1252,328 U.S. 303
Decision Date03 June 1946
Docket NumberNos. 809,s. 809
PartiesUNITED STATES v. LOVETT. SAME v. WATSON. SAME v. DODD. to 811. Argued May 3—6, 1946
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

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

Mr. John C. Gall, of Washington, D.C., for the Congress of the United States, under House Resolution 386 and Public Law 249, 78th Congress, as amicus curiae by special leave of Court.

Mr. Charles A. Horsky, of Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1943 the respondents, Lovett, Watson, and Dodd, were and had been for several years working for the Government. The Government agencies which had lawfully

employed them were fully satisfied with the quality of their work and wished to keep them employed on their jobs. Over the protest of those employing agencies, Congress provided in Section 304 of the Urgent Deficiency Appropriation Act of 1943, by way of an amendment attached to the House bill, that after November 15, 1943, no salary or compensation should be paid respondents out of any monies then or thereafter appropriated except for services as jurors or members of the armed forces, unless they were prior to November 15, 1943 again appointed to jobs by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.1 57 Stat. 431, 450. Notwithstanding the Congressional enactment, and the failure of the President to reappoint respondents, the agencies kept all the respondents at work on their jobs for varying periods after November 15, 1943; but their compensation ws discontinued after that date. To secure compensation for this post-November 15th work, respondents brought these actions in the Court of

Claims. They urged that Section 304 is unconstitutional and void on the grounds that: (1) The Section, properly interpreted, shows a Congressional purpose to exercise the power to remove executive employees, a power not entrusted to Congress but to the Executive Branch of Government under Article II, Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Constitution; (2) the Section violates Article I, Section 9, Clause 3, of the Constitution which provides that 'no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed'; (3) the Section violates the Fifth Amendment, in that it singles out these three respondents and deprives them of their liberty and property without due process of law. The Solicitor General, appearing for the Government, joined in the first two of respondents' contentions but took no position on the third. House Resolution 386, 89 Cong.Rec. 10882, and Public Law 249, 78th Congress, 58 Stat. 113, authorized a special counsel to appear on behalf of the Congress. This counsel denied all three of respondents' contentions. He urged that Section 304 was a valid exercise of Congressional power under Article I, Section 8, Clause 1; Section 8, Clause 18; and Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, which Sections empower Congress 'to lay and collect taxes * * * to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States,' and 'to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution * * * all * * * Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof,' and provide that 'No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.' Counsel for Congress also urged that Section 304 did not purport to terminate respondents' employment. According to him, it merely cut off respondents' pay and deprived governmental agencies of any power to make enforceable contracts with respondents for any further compensation. The contention was that this involved

simply an exercise of Congressional powers over appropriations, which according to the argument, are plenary and not subject to judicial review. On this premise counsel for Congress urged that the challenge of the constitutionality of Section 304 raised no justiciable controversy. The Court of Claims entered judgments in favor of respondents. Some of the judges were of the opinion that Section 304, properly interpreted, did not terminate respondents' employment, but only prohibited payment of compensation out of funds generally appropriated, and that, consequently, the continued employment of respondents was valid, and justified their bringing actions for pay in the Court of Claims. Other members of the Court thought Section 304 unconstitutional and void, either as a bill of attainder, an encroachment on exclusive executive authority, or a denial of due process. 66 F.Supp. 142, 104 Ct.Cl. 557. mwe granted certiorari because of the manifest importance of the questions involved. 327 U.S. 773, 66 S.Ct. 817.

In this Court the parties and counsel for Congress have urged the same points as they did in the Court of Claims. According to the view we take we need not decide whether Section 304 is an unconstitutional encroadchment on executive power or a denial of due process of law, and the section is not challenged on the ground that it violates the First Amendment. Our inquiry is thus confined to whether the actions in the light of a proper construction of the Act present justiciable controversies and if so whether Section 304 is a bill of attainder against these respondents involving a use of power which the Constitution unequivocally declares Congress can never exercise. These questions require an interpretation of the meaning and purpose of the section, which in turn requires an understanding of the circumstances leading to its passage. We, consequently, find it necessary to set out these circumstances somewhat in detail.

In the background of the statute here challenged lies the House of Representatives' feeling in the late thirties that many 'subversives' were occupying influential positions in the Government and elsewhere and that their influence must not remain unchallenged. As part of its program against 'subversive' activities the House in May 1938 created a Committee on Un-American Activities, which became known as the Dies Committee after its Chairman, Congressman Martin Dies. H.R. 1282, 83 Cong.Rec. 7568-7587. This Committee conducted a series of investigations and made lists of people and organizations it thought 'subversive.' See e.g.: H.Rep. No. 1, 77th Cong., 1st Sess.; H.Rep.No.2748, 77th Cong., 2d Sess. The creation of the Dies Committee was followed by provisions such as Section 9A of the Hatch Act, 53 Stat. 1148, 1149, 18 U.S.C.A. § 61i, and Sections 15(f) and 17(b) of the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act of 1941, 54 Stat. 611, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 721—728 note, which forbade the holding of a federal job by anyone who was a member of a political party or organization that advocated the overthrow of our Constitutional form of Government in the United States. It became the practice to include a similar prohibition in all appropriations acts, together with criminal penalties for its violation.2 Under these provisions the Federal Bureau of Investigation began wholesale investigations of federal employees, which investigations were financed by special Congressional appropriations. 55 Stat. 292, 56 Stat. 468, 482. Thousands were investigated.

While all this was happening Mr. Dies on February 1, 1943, in a long speech on the floor of the House attacked thirty-nine named Government employees as 'irresponsible, unrepresentative, crackpot, radical bureaucrats' and

affiliates of 'communist front organizations.' Among these named individuals were the three respondents. Congressman Dies told the House that respondents, as well as the other thirty-six individuals he named were because of their beliefs and past associations unfit to 'hold a government position' and urged Congress to refuse 'to appropriate money for their salaries.' In this connection he proposed that the Committee on Appropriations 'take immediate and vigorous steps to eliminate these people from public office.' 89 Cong.Rec. 474, 479, 486. Four days later an amendment was offered to the Treasury-Post Office Appropriato n Bill which provided that 'no part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be used to pay the compensation of' the thirty-nine individuals Dies had attacked. 89 Cong.Rec. 645. The Congressional Record shows that this amendment precipitated a debate that continued for several days. Id. 645-742. All of those participating agreed that the 'charges' against the thirty-nine individuals were serious. Some wanted to accept Congressman Dies' statements as sufficient proof of 'guilt,' while others referred to such proposed action as 'legislative lynching,' Id. at 651, smacking 'of the procedure in the French Chamber of Deputies, during in Reign of Terror.' Id. at 659. The Dies charges were referred to as 'indictments,' and many claimed this made it necessary that the named federal employees be given a hearing and a chance to prove themselves innocent. Id. at 771. Congressman Dies then suggested that the Appropriations Committee 'weigh the evidence and * * * take immediate steps to dismiss these people from the federal service.' Id. at 651. Eventually a resolution was proposed to defer action until the Appropriations Committee could investigate, so that accused federal employees would get a chance to prove themselves 'innocent' of communism or disloyalty, and so that each 'man would

have his day in court,' and 'There would be no star chamber proceedings.' Id. at 711 and 713; but see Id. at 715. The resolution which was finally passed authorized the Appropriations Committee acting through a special subcommittee '* * * to examine into any and all allegations or charges that certain persons in the employ of the several executive departments and other executive agencies are unfit to continue in such employment by reason of their present association or membership or past association or membership in or with organizations whose aims or purposes are or have been subversive to the Government of the United...

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