Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois

PETITIONER: Rutan
RESPONDENT: Republican Party of Illinois
LOCATION: Illinois Governor's Office

DOCKET NO.: 88-1872
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 497 US 62 (1990)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Mary Lee Leahy - Argued the cause for the petitioners in No. 88-1872 and the respondents in No. 88-2074
Thomas P. Sullivan - Argued the cause for the respondents in No. 88-1872 and the petitioners in No. 88-2074

Facts of the case

In November 1980, Governor James Thompson of Illinois issued an order that prohibited state officials from hiring new employees, promoting state employees, or recalling state employees after layoffs without the approval of the Governor's Office of Personnel. The Office of Personnel based hiring and promotion decisions on factors such as the applicant's contributions to the Republican Party, the applicant's record of service to the Republican Party, and the support of local Party officials. In the jointly decided case of Frech v. Rutan, Cynthia B. Rutan and a number of other potential and current state employees challenged this patronage system, alleging that the Governor was violating their First Amendment rights by practicing unfair political patronage and party-based discrimination.

Question

Did Governor Thompson's practices in Illinois infringe upon the First Amendment rights of potential and current state employees?

Media for Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1990 in Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 88-1872, Cynthia Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, and a companion case.

Ms. Leahy.

Mary Lee Leahy:

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

The complaint in this case alleges that the Governor's Office of Personnel controls the filling of all employment positions in departments and agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor... that is, promotions, transfers, recalls from layoff and actual hire.

Political affiliation is the decisive factor in filling these positions.

In making its decision, the Governor's office uses the county Republican parties.

The applicant... and by applicant I am including not just someone applying for hire, but applicant for promotion, transfer, recall from layoff... the applicant voting record in the primary is reviewed, as are contributions to the party and actual support of the party.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mrs. Leahy, Illinois has a civil service system?

Mary Lee Leahy:

That is correct, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And it was... there was an executive order--

Mary Lee Leahy:

That is correct, Your Honor.

In 19--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--that imposed a hiring freeze back in 1980?

Mary Lee Leahy:

--That is correct, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And is that freeze still in effect?

Mary Lee Leahy:

Yes, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And did the freeze in effect impose a new system of determining promotions and transfers and hires?

Mary Lee Leahy:

Your Honor, I believe that this... yes, a new system imposed on the civil service system.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Because the freeze, the text of the freeze just said we won't have any more hiring.

Mary Lee Leahy:

Unless I approve it, or someone that I delegate that authority to approves it.

That was the gist of the Governor's executive order.

And that is exactly what has happened.

Their power to approve the filling of any of these positions has been delegated to the Governor's Office of Personnel, and they decide the filling of these positions.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And had the civil service system been in effect, there would not... you wouldn't be here.

It would operate to disregard these considerations that you say are used now?

Mary Lee Leahy:

Your Honor, we believe, and we quoted in our brief, certain appellate court rulings in Illinois that talked about the purpose of the civil service system.

We believe that had that been operating as we believe it ought to, no, we would not be here, because these constitutional issues would not have been raised.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do you know how many states do not have a civil service system now for nonpolicy-making employees?

Mary Lee Leahy:

No, Your Honor, I do not know the precise number.

The overwhelming majority do, Your Honor.