LOCATION: Dames & Moore
DOCKET NO.: 80-242
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
CITATION: 453 US 156 (1981)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1981
Edwin S. Kneedler - on behalf of the Petitioner
Patricia J. Barry - on behalf of the Respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Lehman v. Nakshian
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1981 in Lehman v. Nakshian
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in Lehman v. Nakshian.
Mr. Kneedler, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Edwin S. Kneedler:
Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
This case is before the Court on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The question presented is whether Congress has granted a statutory right to trial by jury in suits against the Federal Government under Section 15(c) of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
That Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in employment by private employers as well as by the Federal Government and state and local governments.
The first 14 sections of the Act contain the substantive and remedial provisions generally applicable to private employers and to state and local governments.
Section 7 of the Act deems age discrimination by these employers to be violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and provides for enforcement in accordance with powers, remedies, and procedures contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Section 7(c) then authorizes a person aggrieved by age discrimination by private employers and state and local governments to bring civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate equitable or legal relief.
Section 7(c) expressly provides for trial by jury in suits under that section.
The United States is expressly excluded from the definition of the term 14 sections of the Age Discrimination act.
Instead, age discrimination in federal employment is separately addressed in Section 15.
For example, Subsection (a) of Section 15 states a distinct substantive prohibition providing that all personnel actions in the Federal Government are to be made free of discrimination on the basis of age.
Subsection (b) then empowers the Civil Service Commission, now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the reorganization plan, to enforce this prohibition through appropriate remedies including reinstatement or hiring with or without back pay.
Section 15(c) then authorizes a person aggrieved by employment discrimination in the federal sector to bring a civil action in any federal district court of competent jurisdiction for appropriate legal or equitable relief.
Section 15(c), unlike Section 7(c) applicable to the other employers, does not contain an express grant of the jury trial right.
Respondent brought this action under the Age Discrimination Act in 1978, alleging discrimination by the Secretary of Navy and certain subordinate officials.
According to the complaint, respondent's permanent position was abolished in 1975 and she worked for the next three years in another position on a continuing but temporary basis.
She alleged that officials of the Department had denied her reassignment and promotional opportunities on the basis of age during that three-year period.
To remedy that alleged discrimination she sought in this case a retroactive promotion as well as an award of back pay measured by the difference between what she actually earned and what she would have earned in the Department of the Navy in the absence of the alleged discrimination.
Respondent demanded a jury trial on her age discrimination claim.
The Government moved to strike that demand for a jury trial.
The district court denied the Government's motion to strike concluding that Congress intended to permit jury trials against the Federal Government under Section 15.
The district court did however certify the jury trial issue for interlocutory appeal under 28 USC 1292(b).
The court of appeals granted the petition for interlocutory review.
The court of appeals observed that the Seventh Amendment guarantee of trial by jury does not apply in this case because that guarantee does not apply in suits against the Federal Government.
The Court of Appeals also acknowledged that there is no explicit statutory grant of the jury trial right in Section 15.
Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals concluded that a right to jury trial could be inferred in Section 15.
It relied on two factors.
First, it concluded that the jury trial right could be inferred from the fact that Congress had provided for these suits against the Federal Government to be brought in federal district court rather than in the Court of Claims.