When Congress by law vests the appointment of inferior officers
in the heads of departments, it may limit and restrict the power of
removal as it deems best for the public interests.
A naval cadet-engineer, not found deficient at examination, not
dismissed for misconduct under the provisions of Rev.Stat. § 1525
or upon and in pursuance of a sentence of a court-martial, but
honorably discharged by the Secretary of the Navy against his will
remains in the service notwithstanding the discharge, and is
entitled to recover in the Court of Claims the pay attached to the
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
MR. JUSTICE MATTHEWS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The object of this suit was to recover $100 as the salary of the
plaintiff as a cadet engineer of the Navy from June 30, 1883, to
September 1, 1883, at the rate of $600 per year, as provided by
Rev.Stat. § 1556. Judgment was rendered in his favor for that
amount. 20 Ct.Cl. 438.
The plaintiff entered the Naval Academy as a cadet engineer in
1877, and graduated therefrom on June 10, 1881. On June 26, 1883,
he received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy giving him
notice that, as he was not required to fill any vacancy in the
naval service happening during the preceding year, he was thereby
honorably discharged, from the 30th of June, 1883, with one year's
sea pay, as prescribed by law for cadet midshipmen, in accordance
with the provisions of the Act of Congress approved August 5, 1882.
He protested against this order as illegal and refused the pay,
and, regarding himself as continuing in the service, he sued for
his pay subsequently accruing.
Page 116 U. S. 484
The case differs from that of Redgrave, just decided, in one
particular only: that the claim is for pay after the alleged
The single question now raised as to that point is that although
the discharge may not be justified by the Act of August 5, 1882,
the Secretary of the Navy, irrespective of that act, had lawful
power to discharge him from the service at will. This authority is
claimed on the ground that the plaintiff was not an officer in the
naval service within the meaning of Rev.Stat. § 1229, which
"No officer in the military or naval service shall in time of
peace be dismissed from service except upon and in pursuance of the
sentence of a court-martial to that effect, or in commutation
and that consequently the right to remove and discharge him from
the public service is implied in the power of appointment.
In reply to this position, the Court of Claims, in its opinion
in this case, said:
"In this view we cannot concur. That a cadet engineer like the
claimant was a graduate and in the naval service we have already
decided; that he was an officer is made manifest by the terms of
the Constitution, which provides that"
" Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior
officers as they think proper in the President alone, in the courts
of law, or in the heads of departments."
"Congress has by express enactment vested the appointment of
cadet engineers in the Secretary of the Navy, and when thus
appointed, they become officers, and not employees. United
States v. Germaine, 99 U. S. 508
; United States
v. Moore, 95 U. S. 760
; United States v.
6 Wall. 385. It is further urged that
this restriction of the power of removal is an infringement upon
the constitutional prerogative of the executive, and so of no
force, but absolutely void. Whether or not Congress can restrict
the power of removal incident to the power of appointment of those
officers who are appointed by the President by and with the advice
and consent of the Senate, under the authority of the Constitution
(Article II, Section 2) does not arise in this case, and need not
be considered. "
Page 116 U. S. 485
"We have no doubt that when Congress, by law, vests the
appointment of inferior officers in the heads of departments, it
may limit and restrict the power of removal as it deems best for
the public interest. The constitutional authority in Congress to
thus vest the appointment implies authority to limit, restrict, and
regulate the removal by such laws as Congress may enact in relation
to the officers so appointed."
"The head of a department has no constitutional prerogative of
appointment to offices independently of the legislation of
Congress, and by such legislation he must be governed not only in
making appointments, but in all that is incident thereto. It
follows that, as the claimant was not found deficient at any
examination and was not dismissed for misconduct under the
provisions of Revised Statutes, section 1525, nor upon and in
pursuance of the sentence of a court-martial to that effect, or in
commutation thereof, according to Revised Statutes, section 1229,
he is still in office, and is entitled to the pay attached to the
We adopt these views and affirm the judgment of the Court of