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Morton v. Mancari

Supreme Court of the United States

April 24, 1974, Argued ; June 17, 1974, Decided 1

No. 73-362


 [*537]  [***293]  [**2476]    MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

] The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act, 48 Stat. 984, 25 U. S. C. § 461 et seq., accords an employment [****5]  preference for qualified Indians in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA or Bureau).  Appellees, non-Indian BIA employees, challenged this preference as contrary to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 103, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed., Supp. II), and as violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. A three-judge Federal District Court concluded that the Indian preference under the 1934 Act was impliedly repealed by the 1972 Act. 359 F.Supp. 585 (NM 1973). We noted probable jurisdiction in order to examine the statutory and constitutional validity of this longstanding Indian preference. 414 U.S. 1142 (1974); 415 U.S. 946 (1974).

] Section 12 of the Indian Reorganization Act, 48 Stat. 986, 25 U. S. C. § 472, provides:

"The Secretary of the Interior is directed to establish standards of health, age, character, experience, knowledge, and ability for Indians who may be appointed, without regard to civil-service laws,  [*538]  to the various positions maintained, now or hereafter, by the Indian Office, [3] in the administration  [***294]  of functions or services affecting [****6]  any Indian tribe. Such qualified Indians shall hereafter have the preference to appointment to vacancies in any such positions." 4

 [**2477]  In June 1972, pursuant to this provision, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, issued a directive (Personnel Management Letter [****7]  No. 72-12) (App. 52) stating that the BIA's policy would be to grant a preference to qualified Indians not only, as before, in the initial hiring stage, but also in the situation where an Indian and a non-Indian, both already employed by the BIA, were competing for a promotion within the Bureau. 5 The record indicates that this policy was implemented immediately.

 [****8]  [*539]   Shortly thereafter, appellees, who are non-Indian employees of the BIA at Albuquerque, 6 [****9]  instituted this class action, on behalf of themselves and other non-Indian employees similarly situated, in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, claiming that the "so-called 'Indian Preference Statutes,'" App. 15, were repealed by the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act and deprived them of rights to property without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. 7 Named as defendants were the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the BIA Directors for the Albuquerque and Navajo Area Offices. Appellees claimed that implementation and enforcement of the new preference policy "placed and will continue to place [appellees] at a distinct disadvantage in competing for promotion and training programs  [***295]  with Indian employees, all of which has and will continue to subject the [appellees] to discrimination and deny them equal employment opportunity." App. 16.

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417 U.S. 535 *; 94 S. Ct. 2474 **; 41 L. Ed. 2d 290 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 74 ****; 8 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 105; 7 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P9431



Disposition:  359 F.Supp. 585, reversed and remanded.


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