Chandler v. Roudebush

LOCATION: Detroit Police Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 74-1599
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 425 US 840 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1976

Joel L. Selig - for petitioner
Rex E. Lee - for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Chandler v. Roudebush

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1976 in Chandler v. Roudebush

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 01, 1976 in Chandler v. Roudebush

Potter Stewart:

The second case in which I am authorized to announce the opinion and judgment of the Court this morning is number 74-1599, Jewell V. Chandler, petitioner against Richard L. Roudebush and others, respondents, a case which is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In 1972, as I just mentioned, Congress extended the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to employees of the federal government.

A principal goal of the amending legislation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, was to eradicate entrenched discrimination in the Federal service by strengthening internal safeguards and by according aggrieved federal employees or applicants, the full rights available in the courts as are granted to individuals in the private sector under Title VII.

I just read a quotation from the Senate Committee report.

The issue presented by this case is whether the 1972 Act gives federal employees the same right to a trial de novo on employment discrimination claims as so called "private sector" employees enjoy under Title VII.

The petitioner, Mrs. Jewell Chandler, is a Negro.

In 1972, she was employed as a claims examiner by the Veterans' Administration.

In August of that year she applied for a promotion to the position of supervisory claims examiner.

Following a selection procedure, she was designated as one of three finalists for the position.

The promotion was awarded to a Filipino-American male.

The petitioner subsequently filed a complaint with the Veterans' Administration, alleging that she had been denied the promotion because of unlawful discrimination on the basis of both sex and race.

After an administrative hearing on the claim, the presiding complaints examiner submitted proposed findings to the effect that the petitioner had been discriminated against on the basis of sex, but not race and recommended that she be given a retroactive promotion to the position for which she had applied.

The agency rejected the proposed finding of sex discrimination as not "substantiated by the evidence," and accordingly granted no relief since it accepted that the examiner's proposed finding had no race discrimination.

The petitioner filed a timely appeal to the Civil Service Commission Board of Appeals and Review, which affirmed the agency's decision.

Within 30 days after receiving notice of the Commission's decision, the petitioner brought the present suit in a Federal District Court under Section 717 (c) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1972, her suit was theretofore timely under that statute.

After moving unsuccessfully for summary judgment, she initiated discovery proceedings by filing notice of two depositions and a request for the production of documents.

The respondents, the defendants moved for an order prohibiting discovery on the ground that the judicial action authorized by Section 717 is limited to a review of the administrative record.

The petitioner opposed that motion asserting that she had a right under 717 to a plenary judicial trial on the merits in the District Court.

The District Court held that a trial de novo is not required under Section 717 and that review of the administrative record is sufficient if an absence of discrimination is affirmatively established by the clear weight of the evidence in the record.

Applying this standard of review, the District Court determined that the absence of discrimination is firmly established by the clear weight of the administrative record and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

The Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment, agreeing with the District Court that Section 717 does not contemplate a trial de novo and we granted certiorari to resolve a conflict among the Circuits concerning the nature of the judicial proceeding provided by Section 717 (c) and important and recurring questions in the administration of this new and important Federal Law.

For the reasons set out at some length in the Court's written opinion, we hold that the District Court and the Court of Appeals were mistaken in concluding that Section 717 (c) does not accord a federal employee the same right to a trial de novo as private sector employees enjoy under Title VII.

The judgment, therefore, is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the written opinion filed today with the clerk.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart.