Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955)

Author: Justice Reed

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Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955)

MR. JUSTICE REED, with whom MR. JUSTICE BURTON joins, dissenting.

I agree with MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS that the Court’s reason for annulling Dr. Peters’ discharge is not sound. In addition to the reasons stated by him, I find other factors that, to me, strengthen the view that the action of the Loyalty Review Board was not invalid. However, I do not express any opinion on the constitutional problems which might ultimately be faced if the Court had found that the Review Board’s action and all other nonconstitutional aspects of the case were proper.

Executive Order No. 9835 was issued by the President on March 21, 1947. By this order, he established the Loyalty Review Board and granted to it certain rulemaking powers. Part III, § 1, subd. b, Exec. Order No. 9835. The Review Board’s first promulgation of regulations pursuant to this power included the original of Regulation 14, which provided that the Board had the right "on its own motion" to review the decisions of the department or agency loyalty boards "even though no appeal has been taken." 13 Fed.Reg. 255 (adopted December 17, 1947). Thus, from the very outset, the procedure followed by the Review Board in reviewing these cases was part of the loyalty program. Furthermore, from 1948 through 1952, in each of the Annual Reports of the Civil Service Commission, the results of the Review Board’s post-audit actions under Regulation 14 were unmistakably recorded.{1} These reports were submitted to the President pursuant to statutory requirement.{2} In addition to stating annual data on general post-audit reviews (more than 5,000 in 1952), the reports clearly indicated that the Board was rehearing cases on its own motion, such as the present, where the decision of the agency loyalty board had been favorable to the employee.{3} The Court places emphasis on the number of cases so handled, but this hardly seems relevant in view of the fact that the reports indisputably conveyed to any reader the fact of what the Board was doing, whether in one case or 100.

The Court in this case is reviewing a Presidential Order and rules made thereunder. I do not find it as easy as does the majority to analogize such review to judicial review of congressional Acts and administrative interpretation of such Acts. Certain differences are immediately apparent. The Executive Branch is traditionally free to handle its internal problems of administration in its own way. The legality of judicial review of such intra-executive operations as this is, for me, not completely free from doubt. However, construing the Loyalty Order as the Court does, like a statute, the contemporaneous construction of the Order by the Review Board in promulgating Regulation 14, and the action of the President in allowing the regulation and practices thereunder to continue after having notice from the Civil Service Commission reports, lead me to conclude that the Board, by Regulation 14, correctly interpreted the Presidential intention conveyed by Executive Order 9835. Such reasonable interpretation, promptly adopted and long continued by the President and the Board, should be respected by the courts. That has been judicial practice heretofore.{4}

Nor does comparison of Regulation 14 with the Order show, in my opinion, that the Regulation is "inconsistent with" any of the provisions of the Order. Rather, the power of the Review Board to review under Regulation 14 appears to be supplemental to the other procedures which the Order itself prescribes. Therefore, Regulation 14 constituted merely an implementation of the Order which the Review Board is specifically authorized to make under Part III, § 1, subd. b, set out in the Court’s opinion, p. 340. Neither of the parties has contended otherwise before this Court. They also agree that the Board’s action was valid.

Undoubtedly the President had knowledge and approved of the Regulation. This is shown by his specific recognition of such cases in his own 1953 Order.{5} That Order, while not controlling Dr. Peters’ case directly, since it did not become effective until after the Review Board had heard his case, recognized that the Review Board had been and could review decisions which had been favorable to an employee. This action by the President amounts to approval of the practice of the Review Board under Regulation 14. I am therefore compelled to conclude that the action of the Review Board in rendering its advisory recommendation in this case was not invalid.

The Court seems to imply, however, that the Review Board’s decision was more than merely a recommendation to the head of the department employing Dr. Peters, and that the Board, in another "unwarranted assumption of power," by its letter of May 22, 1953, erroneously separated Dr. Peters from the government service. Nowhere in the majority opinion does it appear that Secretary Hobby or the Department she heads, and for whom Dr. Peters worked, ever took any action in regard to the Review Board’s recommendation. The reference to this May 22 letter is apt to mislead, as it has nothing to do with the Department’s discharge of Dr. Peters, the validity of which is the issue in this case.

I agree that the Review Board’s letter of May 22, 1953, may have been erroneous. Under Civil Service Rule V, § 5.101(a),{6} federal employees found disqualified for federal employment because of a reasonable doubt as to their loyalty are barred from the federal competitive service for three years. This "final determination" as to loyalty is and can be made only by the head of a department or agency on recommendation of a loyalty board.{7} When the head of a department acts on the Review Board’s recommendation, § 5.101(a) becomes effective. The Review Board, acting as an agency of the Civil Service Commission, then notifies the employee of his disqualification. Assuming that the Review Board was not notified of any "final determination" prior to the letter of May 22, it was sent erroneously. However, it amounted to no more than a nullity, and Dr. Peters lost nothing. It is undisputed that, on June 12, 1953, the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, a subordinate of Secretary Hobby, "notified plaintiff of his separation from his position as Special Consultant."{8} This was the notification which effectively separated him from government service, and which is the basis for his complaint for wrongful discharge.

Limiting myself to issues decided by the majority, I dissent.


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Chicago: Reed, "Reed, J., Dissenting," Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955) in 349 U.S. 331 349 U.S. 354–349 U.S. 357. Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Reed. "Reed, J., Dissenting." Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955), in 349 U.S. 331, pp. 349 U.S. 354–349 U.S. 357. Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Reed, 'Reed, J., Dissenting' in Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955). cited in 1955, 349 U.S. 331, pp.349 U.S. 354–349 U.S. 357. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from