Myers v. United States

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Myers v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 5, 1923
Reargued April 13–14, 1925
Decided October 25, 1926
Full case nameFrank S. Myers, Administratrix v. United States
Citations272 U.S. 52 ( more )
47 S. Ct. 21; 71 L. Ed. 160; 1926 U.S. LEXIS 35
Case history
PriorAppeal from the Court of Claims
Holding
The President has the exclusive authority to remove executive branch officials.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William H. Taft
Associate Justices
Oliver W. Holmes Jr.  · Willis Van Devanter
James C. McReynolds  · Louis Brandeis
George Sutherland  · Pierce Butler
Edward T. Sanford  · Harlan F. Stone
Case opinions
MajorityTaft, joined by Van Devanter, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone
DissentHolmes
DissentMcReynolds
DissentBrandeis
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Article II, Section 2

Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52 (1926), was a United States Supreme Court decision ruling that the President has the exclusive power to remove executive branch officials, and does not need the approval of the Senate or any other legislative body. [1]

Contents

Claim

In 1920, Frank S. Myers, a First-Class Postmaster in Portland, Oregon, was removed from office by President Woodrow Wilson. An 1876 federal law provided that "Postmasters of the first, second, and third classes shall be appointed and may be removed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate." Myers argued that his dismissal violated this law, and he was entitled to back pay for the unfilled portion of his four-year term.

Opinion

Chief Justice William Howard Taft, writing for the Court, noted that the Constitution does mention the appointment of officials, but is silent on their dismissal. An examination of the notes of the Constitutional Convention, however, showed that this silence was intentional: the Convention did discuss the dismissal of executive-branch staff, and believed it was implicit in the Constitution that the President did hold the exclusive power to remove his staff, whose existence was an extension of the President's own authority.

The Court therefore found that the statute was unconstitutional, for it violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. In reaching this decision, it also expressly found the Tenure of Office Act, which had imposed a similar requirement on other Presidential appointees and played a key role in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, to have been invalid; it had been repealed by Congress some years before this decision.

Dissents

In a lengthy dissent, Justice McReynolds used an equally exhaustive analysis of quotes from members of the Constitutional Convention, writing that he found no language in the Constitution or in the notes from the Convention intended to grant the President the "illimitable power" to fire every appointed official, "as caprice may suggest", in the entire government with the exception of judges.

In a separate dissent, Justice Brandeis wrote that the fundamental case deciding the power of the Supreme Court, Marbury v. Madison , "assumed, as the basis of decision, that the President, acting alone, is powerless to remove an inferior civil officer appointed for a fixed term with the consent of the Senate; and that case was long regarded as so deciding."

In a third dissent, Justice Holmes noted that it was within the power of Congress to abolish the position of Postmaster entirely, not to mention to set the position's pay and duties, and he had no problem believing Congress also ought to be able to set terms of the position's occupiers.

Subsequent citation

In Humphrey's Executor v. United States in 1935, the Supreme Court distinguished between executive officers and officers occupying "quasi-legislative" or "quasi-judicial" positions, saying that "Myers case dealt with the removal of a postmaster, an executive officer restricted to executive functions and charged with no duty at all related to either the legislative or the judicial power. The actual decision in the Myers case finds support in the theory that such an officer is merely one of the units in the executive department, and, hence, inherently subject to the exclusive and illimitable power of removal by the Chief Executive, whose subordinate he is. That decision goes no farther than to include purely executive officers." [2]

See also

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References