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Elgin v. Department of the Treasury

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 11, 2012
Case #: 11-45
Thomas, J., delivered the Court's opinion, which Roberts, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor, J.J., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion which Ginsburg and Kagan, J.J., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-45.pdf

Civil Procedure: The Civil Service Reform Act precludes district court jurisdiction over challenges to adverse employment action under the Military Selective Service Act, even when such action is challenged on constitutional grounds.

The Military Selective Service Act ("MSSA") bars citizens and resident aliens from employment with the federal government when they were required to register with the Selective Service but failed to do so before age 26. Petitioners either resigned or were discharged from federal employment when confronted with their failure to register with the Selective Service. The Civil Service Reform Act ("CSRA") provides discharged federal employees with a remedy through the Merit Systems Protection Board and judicial review in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Petitioners challenged the MSSA’s bar to employment in federal district court, claiming that the MSSA's provision is an unconstitutional bill of attainder and that it violates the petitioners’ rights to equal protection. The district court refused to dismiss the claims on jurisdictional grounds but ruled against the petitioners on their constitutional claims. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court affirmed the First Circuit, holding that the CSRA precludes district court jurisdiction over the petitioners' claims because it is "fairly discernible" from the text, structure, and purpose of the CSRA that Congress intended the statute's review scheme to provide the exclusive avenue to judicial review for employees who challenge adverse employment actions, even when those employees contend that the federal statute is unconstitutional. Moreover, the CSRA's purpose—creating a review scheme to replace inconsistent decision-making—would be seriously undermined if an employee could challenge adverse employment action in a district court and again in a court of appeals simply by challenging the statute's constitutionality.