Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Appellate Procedure
  • Date Filed: June 23, 2017
  • Case #: 16-399
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Gorsuch, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

When the Merit Systems Protection Board, created under the Civil Service Reform Act, dismisses a mixed case on jurisdictional grounds, the proper forum for review is federal district court.

Under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (“CRSA”), employees can seek review of certain serious personnel actions through the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”). When an employee complains of a personnel action serious enough for review by the MSPB and alleges that the action was based on discrimination, then the employee brings a “mixed case.” Petitioner received notice from his employer that he would be terminated for spotty attendance. Later, Petitioner and his employer reached a settlement in which Petitioner agreed to a suspension and an early retirement. Petitioner appealed his suspension and retirement to the MSPB, alleging discrimination based on race, age, and disability. Petitioner claimed that his employer coerced him into the settlement. In doing so, Petitioner brought a “mixed case.” Pursuant to Kloeckner v. Solis, if the MSPB dismisses a mixed case on the merits or on procedural grounds, the proper forum for review is a federal district court. Here, the MSPB dismissed Petitioner’s case for lack of jurisdiction. The MSPB determined that Petitioner’s settlement was voluntary and since voluntary actions are not appealable to the MSPB, the MSPB lacked jurisdiction over Petitioner’s claims. The MSPB provided that Petitioner could seek judicial review in the Federal Circuit. Petitioner instead filed for review in the D.C. Circuit, which held that the Federal Circuit had jurisdiction over Petitioner’s claim. Respondent argued that employees must split their mixed claims by appealing MSPB rulings to the Federal Circuit and appealing discrimination claims to the district court. Petitioner argues that the district court can resolve the entire complaint. The U.S. Supreme Court held the proper forum for review when the MSPB dismisses a mixed case on jurisdictional grounds is a federal district court. The Supreme Court reasoned that if Congress wanted to bifurcate judicial review, it would have said so. In addition, because the two inquiries may overlap and the MSPB may issue rulings on alternate or multiple grounds, separating judicial review may be impractical. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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