Webster v. Doe

LOCATION:Hustler Magazine Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 86-1294
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 486 US 592 (1988)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1988

Facts of the case


Media for Webster v. Doe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 12, 1988 in Webster v. Doe

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 15, 1988 in Webster v. Doe

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce Number 86-1294, Webster against Doe.

Section 102(c) of the National Security Act of 1947 authorizes the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in his discretion to terminate the employment of any CIA employee in the words of the statute ?whenever he shall deem such termination necessary or advisable in the interest of the United States.?

After respondent, a covert electronics technician employed by the CIA voluntarily informed the agency that he was homosexual, he was discharged by the Director under Section 102.

He then filed suit against the Director in Federal District Court alleging violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and of certain constitutional rights.

The Director argues here that the relevant section of the Administrative Procedure Act prevents judicial review under that Act of the Director’s termination decisions and we agree.

That section applies where a statute is drawn in such broad terms that in a given case there is no law to apply, and the court would therefore have no meaningful standard against which to judge an agency’s action.

In the present case, the Section 102 of the National Security Act does extraordinary discretion in the Director, allowing termination whenever the Director deems it necessary or advisable.

This broad deference precludes the federal courts from reviewing the Director’s termination decisions under the Administrative Procedure Act.

However, we hold Section 102(c) does not preclude the Court’s review over respondent’s constitutional claims.

In a series of earlier cases, we have required convincing evidence before finding that Congress intended to cut off federal court review of constitutional claims and nothing in Section 102(c) demonstrate that Congress meant to preclude consideration of colorable constitutional claims arising out of the Director’s actions pursuant to that section.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

Justice O’Connor has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part and Justice Scalia has filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Kennedy took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.