Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Comm'n,
330 U.S. 127 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Comm'n, 330 U.S. 127 (1947)

Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Commission

No. 84

Argued October 17, 18, 1946

Decided February 10, 1947

330 U.S. 127


A member of the State Highway Commission of Oklahoma, whose principal employment was in connection with an activity financed in part by loans and grants from a federal agency, served at the same time as Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. During his service on the Highway Commission, there was no general election in the State, but he advised with the Governor concerning a dinner sponsored by his Committee to raise funds for political purposes, called the meeting to order, and introduced the toastmaster. Pursuant to § 12 of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C. § 611, the United States Civil Service Commission determined that these activities constituted taking an "active part in political management or in political campaigns," and that this warranted his removal from the office of Highway Commissioner. It so notified him and the State. Pursuant to § 12(c) of the Hatch Act, the State instituted proceedings in a federal district court to review this determination.


1. In this proceeding, the State may properly challenge the constitutionality of § 12 of the Hatch Act. Pp. 330 U. S. 134-142.

(a) Since § 12(c) authorizes the reviewing court to decide whether any order or determination made under § 12(b) is "in accordance with law," the State can properly challenge, and the court is authorized to consider and determine, the constitutionality of the law upon which the order under review is predicated. Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U. S. 447; Perkins v. Lukens Steel Co., 310 U. S. 113; Alabama Power Co. v. Ickes, 302 U. S. 464, differentiated. Pp. 330 U. S. 135-139.

(b) If the contention that the State has no standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Act be treated as an objection to its capacity to bring the suit, it was waived by failure to object in the trial court. P. 330 U. S. 134.

(c) If it be treated as meaning that no justiciable controversy exists as to the constitutionality of § 12, it is timely although first made in this Court. P. 330 U. S. 134.

Page 330 U. S. 128

(d) Under § 12(c), either the state employee or the state may be the party "aggrieved," and may maintain the action for judicial review. P. 330 U. S. 137.

(e) Since failure to remove the State Highway Commissioner from office would result under § 12(b) in interference with payment of the full allotment of federal highway funds to the State, the statutory proceeding to review the order finding that his violation of the Hatch Act warranted his removal from office was a case or controversy between the State and the Civil Service Commission. P. 330 U. S. 137.

(f) The rule that one may not, in the same proceeding, both rely upon and assail a statute is not applicable to this case. P. 330 U. S. 139.

(g) Lack of extended discussion of the scope of judicial review during the legislative debates on the Act does not, by implication, deny to a litigant the right to challenge the constitutionality of the Act. Pp. 330 U. S. 140-142.

2. Section 12 of the Hatch Act is not unconstitutional because of its interference with the employee's freedom of expression in political matters. United Public Workers v. Mitchell, ante, p. 330 U. S. 75. P. 330 U. S. 142.

3. It does not invade the sovereignty of a state in such a way as to violate the Tenth Amendment. Pp. 330 U. S. 142-144.

(a) While the United States is not concerned with, and has no power to regulate, political activities as such of state officials, it does have power to fix the terms upon which its money allotments to states shall be disbursed. P. 330 U. S. 143.

(b) The Tenth Amendment does not forbid the exercise of this power in the way that Congress has proceeded in this case. P. 330 U. S. 143.

4. The actions of the Highway Commissioner constituted taking an "active part in political management" within the meaning and purpose of § 12(a). Pp. 330 U. S. 142, 330 U. S. 144, 330 U. S. 146.

5. The Civil Service Commission's determination that his acts constitute such a violation of § 12(a) as to warrant his removal from office was in accordance with law, and was not arbitrary, unreasonable, or an abuse of discretion. Pp. 330 U. S. 144-146.

53 F.2d 280 affirmed.

The Oklahoma instituted proceedings under § 12(c) of the Hatch Act, 18 U.S.C. § 611(c), to review an order of the United States Civil Service Commission determining that a State Highway Commissioner had engaged

Page 330 U. S. 129

in political activities which warranted his removal from office under that Act. The District Court upheld the action of the Civil Service Commission. 61 F. Supp 355. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 153 F.2d 280. This Court granted certiorari. 328 U.S. 831. Affirmed, p. 330 U. S. 146.

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