Peters v. Hobby
349 U.S. 331 (1955)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955)

Peters v. Hobby

No. 376

Argued April 19, 1955

Decided June 6, 1955

349 U.S. 331

Syllabus

During his employment as a special consultant in a federal agency, petitioner had been twice cleared by the agency's loyalty board. Subsequently, acting solely on its own motion, the Civil Service Commission's Loyalty Review Board (established under Executive Order 9835) determined that there was a reasonable doubt as to petitioner's loyalty, and notified him that he was barred from federal service for a period of three years. Thereafter, petitioner was removed from his position. By an action in a Federal District Court, petitioner challenged the validity of his removal and debarment from federal employment.

Held:

1. This case can be decided without reaching certain constitutional issues raised by petitioner, stemming chiefly from the denial to petitioner of any opportunity to confront and cross-examine his secret accusers. Pp. 349 U. S. 337-338.

2. The Loyalty Review Board's action was invalid as beyond the Board's jurisdiction under Executive Order 9835, and was an unwarranted assumption of power. Pp. 349 U. S. 338-348.

(a) Under the provisions of the Executive Order, the Loyalty Review Board's jurisdiction to review individual cases was limited to appeals from rulings adverse to employees which were referred to the Board by the employees or their departments or agencies. The Board had no authority to review rulings favorable to employees or to adjudicate individual cases on its own motion. Pp. 349 U. S. 339-340, 349 U. S. 342-344.

(b) Regulation 14 of the Loyalty Review Board, to the extent that it purports to authorize the Board to adjudicate individual cases on its own motion and despite a favorable determination below, is invalid as inconsistent with the provisions of Executive Order 9835. Pp. 349 U. S. 340-345.

(c) While loyalty proceedings may not involve the imposition of criminal sanctions, the limitation on the Board's review power to adverse determinations was in keeping with the deeply rooted principle of criminal law that a verdict of guilty is appealable, while a verdict of acquittal is not. Pp. 349 U. S. 344-345.

Page 349 U. S. 332

(d) The President's failure to express disapproval of Regulation 14 cannot be deemed to constitute acquiescence in it. Pp. 349 U. S. 345-347.

(e) The order of debarment, moreover, did not comply with Civil Service Rule V, § 5.101(a), which bars an employee from "the competitive service" within three years after "a final determination" that he is disqualified for federal employment on loyalty grounds, because (i) the order was not limited to the "competitive service," but extended to all federal employment, and (ii) it purported to become effective before the employing agency had made any "final determination." Pp. 349 U. S. 347-348.

3. Petitioner is entitled to a declaratory judgment that his removal and debarment were invalid and to an order directing the respondent members of the Civil Service Commission to expunge from its records (a) the Loyalty Review Board's finding that there is a reasonable doubt as to petitioner's loyalty, and (b) any ruling that petitioner is barred from federal employment by reason of that finding. Pp. 349 U. S. 348-349.

4. Since it appears that the term of petitioner's appointment would have expired on December 31, 1953, wholly apart from his removal on loyalty grounds, his prayer for reinstatement cannot be granted. P. 349 U. S. 349.

Reversed.

Page 349 U. S. 333

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