Twenty Percent Cases
87 U.S. 179 (1873)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Twenty Percent Cases, 87 U.S. 20 Wall. 179 179 (1873)

Twenty Percent Cases

87 U.S. (20 Wall.) 179

Syllabus

1. The Twenty per Cent. Cases, 13 Wall. 576, affirmed, and the liberal view there taken of the joint resolution of 28th February, 1867, allowing to certain persons in the civil service of the United States at Washington an additional compensation of twenty percentum upon their respective salaries as fixed by law or, where no salary is fixed by law, upon their pay respectively, for one year from the 30th of June, 1866, declared to be the true view and applied to other cases essentially like those.

2. But not applied to the case of a person hired at Washington to do service out of Washington, nor to a contractor who contracted to deliver finished work, and who employed another to do it for him.

3. An Act passed on the 12th of July, 1870, repealing "all acts and joint resolutions, or parts thereof, and all resolutions of either House of Congress granting extra pay," the act "to take effect on the 1st day of July, 1870," did not affect the rights given by the joint resolution above mentioned.

On the 28th of February, 1867, Congress passed this joint resolution: [Footnote 1]

"That there shall be allowed and paid . . . to the following described persons, now employed in the civil service of the United States at Washington as follows: to civil officers, temporary and all other clerks, messengers, and watchmen, including enlisted men detailed as such, to be computed upon the gross amount of the compensation received by them, and employees, male and female, in the executive mansion, and in any of the following named departments, or any bureau or division thereof, to-wit: State, Treasury, War, Navy, Interior, Post Office, Attorney-General, Agricultural, and including civil officers, and temporary and all other clerks and employees, male and female, in the offices of the coast survey, naval observatory, navy yard, arsenal, paymaster-general, including the division of referred claims, commissary-general of prisoners, bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands, quartermaster's, capitol and treasury extension, city post office, and commissioner of public buildings, to the photographer and assistant photographer of the Treasury Department,

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to the superintendent of meters, and to lamplighters under the commissioner of public buildings, an additional compensation of twenty percentum on their respective salaries as fixed by law, or where no salary is fixed by law, upon their pay respectively, for one year from and after the 30th day of June, 1866. Provided, That this resolution shall not apply to persons whose salaries, as fixed by law, exceed $3,500 per annum."

On the 12th of July, 1870, [Footnote 2] Congress passed an act in these words:

"All acts and joint resolutions, or parts thereof, and all resolutions of either house of Congress granting extra compensation or pay, be, and the same are hereby repealed, to take effect on the 1st day of July, 1870."

Under the said joint resolution of 28th of February, 1866, fourteen different persons filed at different times -- some of them after the passage of the repealing act -- claims in the court below for the twenty percent given by the statute.

The first was employed by the bureau of yards and docks, as a machinist in the navy yard at Washington, upon daily wages at the agreed sum and price of $3.25 per day.

The second and third as coppersmiths on the Treasury extension, upon daily wages. Under specific appropriations for the construction of the Treasury extension, contracts were entered into for finished work, comprehending both materials and labor -- materials separately, and labor by the day separately. The services in these two cases were rendered under the latter contracts.

The fourth and fifth as watchmen upon the capitol extension, at daily wages, their compensation changing during the year.

The sixth as a laborer upon monthly wages in the quartermaster's department in the City of Washington.

The seventh was employed in the Treasury extension as a laborer upon daily wages, working for part of the time at $1.75 per day, and for another part at $2 per day.

The eighth by the authority of the surgeon-general of

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the army, as a carpenter at the depot for receiving and distributing medical supplies in Washington.

The ninth was a watchman, laborer, and teamster by the quartermaster's department at Washington.

The tenth was a laborer by the commissary department at Washington.

The eleventh was a laborer, upon daily wages, at the Washington arsenal.

The twelfth was in the secret service division of the Treasury Department, in the capacity of detective, at a monthly salary of $150 per month.

The thirteenth, one Hoffman, was employed by one of the quartermasters on duty in the department at Washington, by the day, as sexton at the Arlington Cemetery, near Washington, but in Virginia, and there rendered his services.

The fourteenth, one Bell, was a plate-printer in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in the Treasury Department. He was paid the market price for his work, the price being neither a salary nor a per diem compensation, but a fixed rate for the work done -- that is to say, per one hundred sheets of face printing and per one hundred sheets of back printing. In the performance of his duties, he employed and paid an assistant, but the pay of the assistant was received directly from the disbursing officers of the Treasury, and was deducted by them from the amount earned by the claimant. The amount paid him after such deduction was $1,184.30, for twenty percent of which the court below entered judgment.

Each of the fourteen claimants was paid the highest rate of wages commonly paid for services such as his.

The Court of Claims gave judgment, pro forma, in all the cases, for the claimants, and the government brought the cases here.

The meaning of the joint resolution of February 28, 1867, it may be well here to state, had been a matter of question in this Court on a previous occasion in the cases known as The Twenty Percent Cases, [Footnote 3] and the Court then said that

Page 87 U. S. 182

persons are

"properly in the civil service if they were employed by the head of the department or of the bureau or any division of the department charged with that duty and authorized to make such contracts and fix the compensation of persons employed, even though the particular employment may not be designated in any appropriation"

act. It added that

"many persons not employed as clerks and messengers of the departments are in the public service by virtue of an employment by the head of the department or by the head of a bureau of the department authorized by law to make such contracts, and such persons are as much in the service, within the meaning of the joint resolution, as the clerks and messengers employed in the rooms of the department building. "

Page 87 U. S. 183

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