Office of Sen. Mark Dayton v. Hanson

PETITIONER: Office of Senator Mark Dayton
RESPONDENT: Brad Hanson
LOCATION: Tellabs Inc. Corporate Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 06-618
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 550 US 511 (2007)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 2007
DECIDED: May 21, 2007

ADVOCATES:
Jean M. Manning - on behalf of Appellant
Richard A. Salzman - on behalf of Appellee
Thomas E. Caballero - for United States Senate, as amicus curiae, supporting Appellee

Facts of the case

Brad Hanson worked as State Office Manager for U.S. Senator Mark Dayton. Shortly after Hanson took medical leave for a heart problem, Dayton fired him. Hanson sued under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, claiming that Dayton had discriminated against him based on a perceived disability. Dayton filed a motion to have the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. He argued that he was immunized from the suit by the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution ("for any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place.") Dayton claimed that because Hanson's duties were directly related to Dayton's legislative functions, the decision to fire him could not be challenged. The District Court denied the motion.

Overturning its own precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision that the Speech or Debate Clause does not bar the suit. The clause can be invoked to exclude evidence that would involve legislative acts, but the D.C. Circuit ruled that it is not a blanket ban on suits involving legislative employees. The employee would simply have to make his case without questioning legislative acts or motivations for legislative acts. Senator Dayton appealed directly to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Accountability Act requires the Court to hear the appeal. He also argued that Hanson's suit should be dismissed because the case had become moot after Dayton retired from the Senate.

Question

1) Does the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution bar federal court jurisdiction of suits under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 by congressional employees whose job duties are part of the due functioning of the legislative process?

2) Was the Office of Senator Mark Dayton entitled to appeal the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit directly to the Supreme Court?

3) Was the case rendered moot by the expiration of Senator Dayton's term of office?

Media for Office of Sen. Mark Dayton v. Hanson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 2007 in Office of Sen. Mark Dayton v. Hanson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 21, 2007 in Office of Sen. Mark Dayton v. Hanson

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Stevens has the opinion of the court today in case 06-618 Dayton versus Hanson.

John Paul Stevens:

The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 provides employees of members of congress for the remedy of certain adverse employment actions.

Invoking the District Court jurisdiction under that act appellee Brad Hanson brought this damages action against the appellant the office of former Senator Mark Dayton.

He alleged that he had been terminating in violation of three federal statutes.

The senator’s office moved to dismiss the action based on a claim of immunity under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

The District Court denied the motion to dismiss and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The office then invoked our jurisdiction under §412 of the statute and we proposed consideration of jurisdiction tending hearing the case on the merits.

For reason stated in the opinion filed with the clerk we conclude that we do not have jurisdiction under §412 of the Act.

We therefore dismissed the appeal. Moreover, treating the appellant’s jurisdictional statement as a petition for the Writ of Certiorari we deny the petition because the decision of the D. C. Circuit is not in obvious conflict with any of its sister circuits on the application of the Speech or Debate Clause to suits challenging personnel decision of members of congress.

Our opinion is unanimous.

The Chief Justice did not participate in the consideration or deliberation of the case.