Williams v. Zuckert

LOCATION: Formerly S. H. Kress and Co.

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 371 US 531 (1963)
ARGUED: Dec 13, 1962
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Williams v. Zuckert

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 13, 1962 in Williams v. Zuckert

Earl Warren:

Defendants [Inaudible] for the purpose of the next case to be summed by next [Inaudible] of petition number 133, Daniel Alton Williams, Petitioner, versus Eugene M. Zuckert, Secretary of the Air Force.

Mr. Shapiro.

David I. Shapiro:

May it please the Court.

The issue in this case is whether an employee with veterans’ preference status can be denied an opportunity to confront and cross-examine his accusers in a proceeding before the Civil Service Commission challenging his removal from federal employment.

The employing agency, in this case, the Air Force, admitted that the witnesses to petitioner's alleged misconduct were all airmen, on active duty and subject to which military control, yet it refused to produce them before the Civil Service Commission because if the Air Force unilaterally concluded that their testimony would not have aided the petitioner's test.

Now, court below held that the failure of the Air Force to produce these witnesses did not violate petitioner's statutory or procedural rights, one of the facts.

The petitioner was a veteran with 16 years government service, was employed as a recreational supervisor at the Air Force Academy.

On March 19, 1959, he was suspended from employment on grounds that he had attempted to make homosexual assaults upon three airmen and it willfully damaged a government type.

Potter Stewart:

He was a civilian employee?

David I. Shapiro:

Yes sir he was.

Potter Stewart:

Although he had been in military, it's in the Air Force?

David I. Shapiro:

That's correct.

Potter Stewart:

In military.

David I. Shapiro:


Now, two of the attempted assaults were alleged to have occurred while the petitioner was on active duty with the Air Force, approximately a year and two years before.

The third attempt was alleged to have occurred while he was employed in a civilian capacity at the Air Force Academy.

Now, prior to his removal, the petitioner was notified that he could answer the charges against him personally and in writing.

However, since he had been prohibited the day before from entering the academy grounds on pane of arrest, he did not avail himself of his so-called “opportunity” to answer the charges in person, but did so in writing instead.

Now he was, after he replied in writing, discharged from his position with the Air Force on April 12, 1959.

He then appealed to the Civil Service Commission under Section 14 of Veterans Preference Act.

On May 5, 1959, the Tenth Civil Service Region held a hearing to take evidence of petitioner's misconduct.

Now at the outset of the hearing, the petitioner requested the Department of the Air Force for an opportunity to interrogate three airmen, two of them were alleged victims of this homosexual attempts and who were stationed at the Air Force academy but this requests were rejected.

The Air Force submitted its evidence against the petitioner in affidavit form and while admitting its ability to produce all three airmen, it declined to do so on the grounds at the hearing that the Air Force Academy saw no need for their attendance, it did not consider that they would be able to add anything to the case.

They later explained this by saying that if they had appeared, the testimony that they would've offer on cross-examination would even been more damaging to the petitioner.

Potter Stewart:

To who is which -- who is the third?

You told us that two of the witnesses --

David I. Shapiro:

The third one apparently was an individual who was present there.

There is some confusion in the record.

They were actually two of these airmen who were the accusing witnesses that he requested.

The third was apparently an individual, another airman who was present during one of the occurrences and I think the government states that fact correctly in its brief with regard to that airman.