Hafer v. Melo

RESPONDENT: Melo et al.
LOCATION: Northern District Court of New York

DOCKET NO.: 90-681
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 502 US 21 (1991)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1991
DECIDED: Nov 05, 1991

Jerome R. Richter - on behalf of the Petitioner
William Goldstein - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Hafer v. Melo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1991 in Hafer v. Melo

William H. Rehnquist:

Well hear argument next in Number 90-681, Barbara Hafer v. James C. Melo, Jr.--

Mr. Richter, you may proceed.

Jerome R. Richter:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

We are before the Court on a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit following its reversal of the entry of final judgment in favor of our client, the petitioner, Barbara Hafer, by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Although other claims were considered by the courts below against the Auditor General and her co-defendant, James West, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, no aspect of those claims is before this Court.

The only issue before this Court relates to the claims against the petitioner arising out of Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which is Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983.

The principal question before the Court involves the application of the Court's 1989 holding in Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, wherein the Court held neither the State nor its officials acting in an official capacity are persons under Section 1983.

The petitioner, the Auditor General, is an elected official of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The primary function of the petitioner is to ensure that all the revenues due to the Commonwealth are collected and all the funds so collected are legally and properly disbursed.

To fulfill that sensitive responsibility the Auditor General supervises a staff of approximately 800 employees consisting of auditors, investigators, and revenue agents.

The Auditor General is vested with the ultimate statutory authority to hire and fire the employees within that department.

The Auditor General took office and was inaugurated January 17, 1989.

Shortly thereafter, she fired the 16 respondents, 8 because they were ineffective managers and the other 8 because they were beneficiaries of a job-buying scheme.

Each of the 16 are seeking money damages personally against the Auditor General--

John Paul Stevens:

May I ask you a question right now?

Would the issue that you're going to argue be any different if the 16 plaintiffs had been fired because they were all females?

Jerome R. Richter:

--The issue would be no different.

It would affect, of course, perhaps the fact that there's alternative relief available under Title VII, but it wouldn't affect the argument.

The relevance, of course, Justice Stevens, to our making reference to the facts relating to the job-buying scheme in which eight of the respondents were the beneficiaries has to do with the concern about the interference by the courts into the internal operations of State Government, particularly in a case of such a sensitive and public nature as that involved in the job-buying scheme.

But to go on, seven... seven of the respondents as union members pursued and secured arbitration awards.

They... they were union members, and as such they were entitled to a grievance procedure which permitted the arbitration process, and each of the seven was awarded reinstatement with back pay and interest on the back pay.

The reason for the arbitration awards, was given by the arbitrators, was that they grounded their awards solely on the basis that there was a total lack of... lack of adequate proof on the part of the Auditor General that the seven respondents knew that their jobs were purchased.

All eight beneficiaries of the job-buying scheme, including the seven with the awards for reinstatement, are still pressing 1983 claims alleging political discharge in violation of the First Amendment and their due process rights against the Auditor General in her individual capacity.

These eight have been consolidated, with James Melo as the lead plaintiff.

The other eight, who were fired as ineffective managers, have had their cases consolidated with Carl Gurley as the lead plaintiff.

Two of the Gurley respondents have sought money damages only from the Auditor General, while the other six are seeking money damages as well as reinstatement, and they are seeking reinstatement against the Auditor General in her official capacity... excuse me.

Byron R. White:

You mean that's what they... is that they way they put it?

Jerome R. Richter:

There were 11 complaints, Justice--

Byron R. White:

Is that the way they put it?

Jerome R. Richter:

--In that one complaint, the eleventh complaint, six of the Gurley plaintiffs have sought reinstatement against the Auditor General in her official capacity, and money damages against her--