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Although the Supreme Court does not decide whether or not it would be good policy to permit a federal employee to recover damages from a supervisor who has improperly disciplined him for exercising his First Amendment rights, the Court declines to create a new substantive legal liability without legislative aid and at common law because it is convinced that Congress is in a better position to decide whether or not the public interest would be served by creating it.
Petitioner was an aerospace engineer employed by a flight center operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Respondent was the center's director. Petitioner made public statements that were highly critical of the agency, and respondent demoted petitioner. Petitioner filed an action against respondent seeking to recover damages for violations of petitioner's constitutional rights under U.S. Const. amend. I. The district court held that petitioner's demotion was not a constitutional deprivation for which a damages action could be maintained. The appellate court affirmed, holding that the petitioner had no cause of action for damages under the First Amendment for retaliatory demotion in view of the available remedies under the Civil Service Commission regulations. Petitioner sought Supreme Court review.
Under the circumstances, could the court grant a remedy to the petitioner?
The Court held that in order to grant petitioner the requested relief, the elaborate remedial system which had been constructed under legislation, Executive Orders, and regulations by the Civil Service Commission, would have to be augmented by the creation of a new judicial remedy. The Court declined to create such a new substantive legal liability without legislative aid however, holding that Congress was in a better position to decide whether or not the public interest would be served by creating the same. Therefore, the judgment of the appellate court was affirmed.