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 name Frank S. Myers, Administratrix v. United States
Citations 272 U.S. 52 (more)
47 S. Ct. 21; 71 L. Ed. 160; 1926 U.S. LEXIS 35
Prior history Appeal from the Court of Claims
Holding
The President has the exclusive authority to remove executive branch officials.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Taft, joined by Van Devanter, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone
Dissent Holmes
Dissent McReynolds
Dissent Brandeis
Laws applied
U.S. Const.

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.

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.

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appointees and played a key role in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, to have been invalid; it had been repealed by Congress some years before this decision.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.

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