On June 11, 2012 the Supreme Court announced its decision in Elgin v. Dep’t of the Treasury. This case involves former federal employees who contend that their employment was improperly terminated in violation of the Constitution and seek reinstatement. The question was whether the former employees could seek this relief in federal district court even though the Civil Service Reform Act appears to provide that the federal Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has exclusive jurisdiction over such claims arising out of federal employment.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Thomas, the Court held by a vote of 6-3 that Congress intended the Civil Service Reform Act to provide the exclusive avenue to judicial review for constitutional claims brought by covered federal employees such as the plaintiffs in this case. Thus, they were not entitled to proceed in federal district court. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor joined Justice Thomas’s opinion. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan.
To discuss the case, we have Christopher Bryant, who is a Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.