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HILTON V. SULLIVAN, 334 U. S. 323 (1948)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hilton v. Sullivan, 334 U.S. 323 (1948)

Hilton v. Sullivan

No. 560

Argued April 21, 1948

Decided June 1, 1948

334 U.S. 323


Regulations of the Civil Service Commission applicable to reductions in force of employees of the Federal Government prescribed the following order of priority for retention of "permanent employees": (1) A-1 Plus, World War II veterans for a one-year period after return to duty; (2) A-1, Veteran's preference employees with efficiency ratings of "good" or better; (3) A-2, Employees without veteran's preference with efficiency ratings of "good" or better. Under the regulations, every member of groups A-1 Plus and A-1 was entitled to be retained in preference to those in group A-2, without regard to length of service. Petitioner was classified in group A-2 and was notified of a one-year furlough. He sued for a declaratory judgment, praying that the Commission's A-1 Plus and A-1 classifications be declared void, that he be restored to his position, and that the Commission be required to rescind the regulations and promulgate new ones in accordance with law.


1. In the circumstances of this case, petitioner is entitled to challenge the validity of the A-1 Plus as well as the A-1 classification. Pp. 334 U. S. 325-328.

2. The A-1 Plus classification is authorized by § 8 of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Pp. 334 U. S. 328-333.

(a) The mandatory requirement of § 8(b)(A) of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 that the Government rehire its returning veteran employees is not qualified, as in the case of private employers under § 8(b)(B), when "the employer's circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so." Pp. 334 U. S. 328-330, 334 U. S. 331.

Page 334 U. S. 324

(b) Trailmobile Co. v. Whirls, 331 U. S. 40, and Fishgold v. Sullivan Drydock & Repair Co., 328 U. S. 275, distinguished. Pp. 334 U. S. 330-333.

(c) The prohibition of § 8(c) of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 against "discharge" of a reemployed war veteran must be read in light of the different reemployment obligations imposed on private employers and on the Federal Government. P. 334 U. S. 331.

(d) Section 12 of the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 did not so amend § 8 of the Selective Training and Service Act as to confer upon petitioner retention rights based upon his length of service. P. 334 U. S. 332.

(e) A one-year furlough, applied to veterans, would be a "discharge" within the meaning of § 8(c) of the Selective Training and Service Act. P. 334 U. S. 333.

3. The A-1 classification, which gives all permanent employee "Veterans with good' or higher efficiency ratings" retention preferences over all nonveterans, even over nonveterans with higher efficiency ratings and longer government service, is authorized by § 12 of the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 in view of that section's legislative history. Pp. 334 U. S. 333-339.

(a) The "due effect" required by the first clause of § 12 is given to length of service by its consideration in the determination of retention preferences as between veteran and veteran and as between nonveteran and nonveteran. Pp. 334 U. S. 335-336.

(b) The question of the wisdom of the policy embodied in a congressional enactment is not for this Court to determine. P. 334 U. S. 339.

83 U.S.App.D.C. ___, 165 F.2d 251, affirmed.

In a declaratory judgment action by petitioner against the Secretary of the Navy and the members of the Civil Service Commission to establish his employment status, the District Court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 83 U.S.App.D.C. ___, 165 F.2d 251. This Court granted certiorari. 333 U.S. 841. Affirmed, p. 334 U. S. 339.

Page 334 U. S. 325

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