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Chandler v. Roudebush

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 2, 1976 ; June 1, 1976

No. 74-1599


 [*841]   [***419]   [**1950]  MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In [****3]  1972 Congress extended the protection of Title VII of the  [***420]  Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. IV), to employees of the Federal Government. A principal goal of the amending legislation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Pub. L. 92-261, 86 Stat. 103, was to eradicate "'entrenched discrimination in the Federal service,'" Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 547, by strengthening internal safeguards and by according "[a]ggrieved [federal] employees or applicants… the full rights available in the courts as are granted to individuals in the private sector under title VII." 2 The issue presented by this case is whether the 1972 Act gives federal employees the same right to a trial de novo of employment discrimination claims as "private sector" employees enjoy under Title VII.

The petitioner, Mrs. Jewell Chandler, is a Negro. In 1972 she was employed as a claims examiner [****4]  by the Veterans' Administration. In August of that year she applied for a promotion to the position of supervisory claims examiner. Following a selection procedure she was designated as one of three finalists for the position.  [*842]  The promotion was awarded to a Filipino-American male. The petitioner subsequently filed a complaint with the Veterans' Administration alleging that she had been denied the promotion because of unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex and race. After an administrative hearing on the claim, the presiding complaints examiner submitted proposed findings to the effect that the petitioner had been discriminated against on the basis of sex but not race and recommended that she be given a retroactive  [**1951]  promotion to the position for which she had applied. The agency rejected the proposed finding of sex discrimination as not "substantiated by the evidence," and accordingly granted no relief. 3 The petitioner filed a timely appeal to the Civil Service Commission Board of Appeals and Review, which affirmed the agency's decision.

 [****5]  Within 30 days after receiving notice of the Commission's decision, the petitioner brought the present suit in a Federal District Court under § 717 (c) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as added by § 11 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 111, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-16 (c) (1970 ed., Supp. IV).  After moving unsuccessfully for summary judgment, she initiated discovery proceedings by filing notice of two depositions and a request for the production of documents.  The respondents moved for an order prohibiting discovery on the ground that the judicial action authorized by § 717 (c) is limited to a review of the administrative record. The petitioner opposed the motion, asserting that she had a right under § 717 (c) to a plenary judicial trial de novo. The District Court adopted the holding of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Hackley v. Johnson, 360 F. Supp. 1247, rev'd  [*843]  sub nom. Hackley v. Roudebush, 171 U.S. App. D.C. 376, 520 F. 2d 108, that ] a "trial de novo is not required [under § 717 (c)] in all cases"  [***421]  and that review of the administrative record is sufficient if "an absence of discrimination is affirmatively established [****6]  by the clear weight of the evidence in the record…." 360 F. Supp., at 1252. 4 Applying this standard of review, the District Court determined that "the absence of discrimination is firmly established by the clear weight of the administrative record" and granted summary judgment in favor of the respondents.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, agreeing with the District Court's ruling that § 717 (c) contemplates not a trial de novo but the "intermediate scope of inquiry expounded in Hackley v. Johnson…." Chandler v. Johnson, 515 F. 2d 251, 255 (CA9).  We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict among the Circuits concerning the nature of the judicial proceeding provided by § 717 (c). 5 423 U.S. 821.

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425 U.S. 840 *; 96 S. Ct. 1949 **; 48 L. Ed. 2d 416 ***; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 102 ****; 12 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1368; 11 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P10,957




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