No district court jurisdiction for federal employee challenging adverse employment action (6-3)

The US Supreme Court held this morning that the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) precludes district court jurisdiction over Elgin’s claim that his removal from federal service was based on an unconstitutional statute. The procedural route prescribed by the CSRA is by appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and, if dissatisfied with the result, appeal to the Federal Circuit, whose decisions in turn are reviewable by the Supreme Court.

Elgin v. Dept of Treasury (US Supreme Ct 06/11/2012)

A federal statute bars employment in the executive branch of male citizens who failed to register for the draft. Elgin, who had been discharged from his job, first challenged the decision before the MSPB – arguing that the statutory bar was unconstitutional – but an ALJ dismissed his case on the ground that the MSPB lacked authority to review the constitutionality of a federal statute. Rather than appealing from that decision, Elgin sued in federal district court.

The US Supreme Court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction because it is “fairly discernable” from the CSRA’s text, structure, and purpose that Congress precluded district court jurisdiction over Elgin’s claims. Based on CSRA’s text and structure, there is no exception for constitutional challenges to federal statutes. If the MSPB lacks power to hear such claims, they can be meaningfully addressed by the Federal Circuit.

The DISSENT argued that Elgin’s “constitutional claims are a far cry from the type of claim that Congress intended to channel through the [MSPB].”

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