Branti v. Finkel

LOCATION: Great Sioux Indian Reservation

DOCKET NO.: 78-1654
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 445 US 507 (1980)
ARGUED: Dec 04, 1979
DECIDED: Mar 31, 1980

David Macrae Wagner - for respondents
Marc L. Parris - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Branti v. Finkel

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 1979 (Part 2) in Branti v. Finkel
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 1979 (Part 1) in Branti v. Finkel

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 31, 1980 in Branti v. Finkel

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 78-1654, Branti against Finkel will be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Petitioner is the public defender of Rockland County New York.

He is a democrat and was appointed to office by the county legislature after the democrats gained control of that body.

As soon as he took office, he began the process of replacing all of the assistant public defenders who had been appointed by his republican predecessor.

The respondents are two of those assistants.

They brought this action to enjoin petitioner from discharging them solely because of their political beliefs.

The District Court found that respondents are competent attorneys and that the sole ground for their removal, was that their political beliefs differed from those of the ruling democratic majority.

The District Court enjoined petitioner from removing them from office and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Three years ago, in Elrod against Burns, this Court held that the newly elected sheriff of Cook County Illinois could not dismiss certain clerks, deputies and janitors simply because they refused to join the Democratic Party.

In this case, petitioner asks us to distinguish the Elrod case on two grounds.

First, that the holding in Elrod is limited to situations in which government employees are coerced into pledging allegiance to a political party that they would not voluntarily support and does apply to a simple requirement that an employee be sponsored by the party in power.

And second, that even if party sponsorship is an unconstitutional condition of continued public employment for clerks, deputies, and janitors, it is an acceptable requirement for an assistant public defender.

For reasons stated in a written opinion filed with the clerk today, we reject both of these arguments and affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filed a dissenting opinion and Mr. Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Rehnquist has joined and in Part I of which, Mr. Justice Stewart has joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stevens.