Allied Structural Steel Company v. Spannaus

PETITIONER: Allied Structural Steel Company
RESPONDENT: Spannaus
LOCATION: Allied Structural Steel Company: Industrial Construction Division

DOCKET NO.: 77-747
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 438 US 234 (1978)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1978

ADVOCATES:
Byron E. Starns - Argued the cause for the appellees
George B. Christensen - Argued the cause for the appellant

Facts of the case

In 1974, Minnesota adopted legislation which required private employers to pay a fee if they terminated employee pension plans or if they moved their offices from the state, leaving insufficient funds to cover pensions for ten-year employees. This law affected Allied Structural Steel as the company began closing offices in Minnesota. Even though the employees affected by the closing were not entitled to pensions under the terms of their employment with the company, according to the Minnesota law, they were. The company was ordered to pay approximately $185,000 to comply with the statute's provisions.

Question

Did Minnesota's Private Pension Benefits Protection Act violate the Contract Clause of the Constitution?

Media for Allied Structural Steel Company v. Spannaus

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1978 in Allied Structural Steel Company v. Spannaus

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 26, 1978 in Allied Structural Steel Company v. Spannaus

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and the opinion of the Court in 77-747, Allied Structural Steel Company against Spannaus, the attorney general of Minnesota will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case is here on direct appeal from the United States District Court for the district of Minnesota.

This is an important case, both as a matter of abstract constitutional law and as a matter of practical impact and I shall make only a very brief oral announcement this morning.

The question presented is whether the application of Minnesota's Private Pension Benefits Protection Act to the appellant company violates the contract clause of the Constitution.

This is the constitutional provision that was at issue in the famous Darmouth College case, argued here by Daniel Webster more than a 150 years ago, but it is a constitutional provision that has been largely quiescent in this century.

For the reasons set out in detail in the written opinion of the Court we conclude that the Minnesota law does violate this provision of the constitution, accordingly the judgment is reversed.

Mr. Justice Blackmun took no part in the consideration or decision of this case, and Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Marshall have joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart.