Mesa v. California

RESPONDENT: California
LOCATION: Checker Gasoline Station

DOCKET NO.: 87-1206
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 489 US 121 (1989)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1988
DECIDED: Feb 21, 1989

Donald B. Ayer - on behalf of the Petitioners
Kenneth Rosenblatt - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

The case of Mesa v. California took place among the petitioners - mail truck drivers who were the workers of the postal service of the United States. They were separately charged because of the criminal companies. The grounds for the accusation were the traffic violations caused by the unrelated situations while the petitioners were working with their trucks. The men were convened by the Municipal Court in California. The attorney presented the petitions to remove the companies to Federal District Court. It was due to the fact that the petitioners have been the governmental workers at the time of the incidents. The charges in this case brief were applied because of the situations with these petitioners that occurred while they were at work, dealing with their duties.

However, the District Court has granted the petitions. After the analysis of the petitions, the Court of Appeals published a document that ordered the District Court to cancel the petitions. It also required starting a trial in a state court because the governmental postal employees could not take back their state criminal prosecutions to the governmental judges immediately after they rose no claim of the defense or any other type of immunity.

As a result, the judges have decided to refrain from determining if the removal in such case was correct since there has been no similar situation happening before. The judges later chose to leave a possibility open, suggesting the following. If a federal officer could be prosecuted due to the local hostility to his or her action, then the close connection between this officer's functions or duties and state prosecution, as well as a proper and careful pleading could have replaced the unique averment of the federal defense.


Media for Mesa v. California

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 21, 1989 in Mesa v. California

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The second case is Mesa versus California number 87-1206 which comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In the summer of 1985, the petitioners Mesa and Ebrahim were employed as mail truck drivers by the US Postal Service in Santa Clara County, California.

In unrelated incidence, the State of California issued complaints against the petitioners for criminal traffic violations that occurred while the petitioners were driving the mail trucks.

They were arraigned in State Court.

Through the offices of the US attorney for the Northern District of California, the petitioners Sought to remove these prosecutions in State Court.

The Federal District Court, pursuant to Section 1442(a) of the Judicial Code which permits removal of any similar criminal prosecution brought against a federal officer in State Court for any act done under color of office.

The basis for the removal of petition was that the traffic violations had occurred while petitioners were on duty.

Federal District Court granted the removal of petitions, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a writ of mandamus ordering the District Court to remand the prosecutions to the California State Courts.

On the ground that petitioners had failed to raise a colorable federal defense.

We granted the petition to serve to resolve a conflict among the Circuits concerning the necessary predicate for federal officer removal under Section 1442.

We now affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals unanimously.

For reasons explained in the opinion, we decline to depart from a long line of this Court's precedents dating the 1868 that requires federal officer removal under the statute to be predicated upon the assertion of a federal defense.

And this interpretation avoids potential difficulties under Article 3 of the constitution that might arise if we were to adopt petitioner's contrary review.

Justice Brennan has filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Marshall has joined.