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UNITED STATES V. TESTAN, 424 U. S. 392 (1976)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392 (1976)

United States v. Testan

No. 74-753

Argued November 12, 1975

Decided March 2, 1976

424 U.S. 392


Respondent Government trial attorneys with civil service grade GS-13 classifications requested their employing agency to reclassify their positions to grade GS-14, contending that their duties and responsibilities met the requirements for the higher grade and were identical to those of other trial attorneys classified as GS-14 in another agency, and that, under the principle of "equal pay for substantially equal work" prescribed in the Classification Act, they were entitled to the higher classification. But their agency, and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on appeal, denied reclassification. Respondents then sued the Government in the Court of Claims, seeking reclassification as of the date of the first administrative denial of their request, and each seeking backpay, computed at the difference between his GS-13 salary and his claimed GS-14 salary, from that date. The trial judge denied backpay, but held that the CSC's refusal to reclassify respondents to GS-14 was arbitrary, and that respondents were entitled to an order remanding the case to the CSC with directions so to reclassify respondents. The court en banc, while disapproving the trial judge's recommendation that the court was empowered to direct reclassification, held that, if the CSC were to determine that it had made an erroneous classification, the court was authorized to award money damages for backpay lost, that the CSC's refusal to compare respondents' positions with those of the other trial attorneys was arbitrary and capricious, and that the court had power to order the CSC to reconsider its classification decision. Accordingly, the court remanded the case to the CSC to make the comparison and to report the result to the court.


1. The Tucker Act, which merely confers jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims whenever a substantive right enforceable against the United States for money damages exists, does not in itself support the action taken by the Court of Claims in this case. Pp. 424 U. S. 397-398.

2. Neither the Classification Act nor the Back Pay Act creates a substantive right in respondents to backpay for the period of the claimed wrongful classification. Pp. 424 U. S. 398-407.

205 Ct.Cl. 330, 499 F.2d 690, reversed and remanded.

Page 424 U. S. 393

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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