Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 41, the first commissioners appointed are to continue in office for terms of three, four, five, six, and seven years, respectively; and their successors are to be appointed for terms of seven years. Any commissioner is subject to removal by the President for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office. The words of the Act are definite and unambiguous.
An executor of an estate filed suit against the government to recover a sum of money due the deceased for his salary as a Federal Trade Commissioner from the time when he was allegedly relieved of his duties by the President until the time of his death. The plaintiff contended that the estate was entitled to the sum of money because the deceased had not been removed by the President under one of the causes enumerated in the Federal Trade Commission Act. A certificate was issued from the United States Court of Claims, to have the Supreme Court of the United States decide whether the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act restricted or limited the power of the President to remove a commissioner, except upon one or more of the causes named.
Do the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act restrict or limit the power of the President to remove a commissioner?
Upon certification of two questions, the United States Supreme Court held that the provisions of the Act restricted the power of the President to remove a commissioner only upon one or more of the causes listed in the Act. The Court further held that such a restriction was valid under the Constitution of the United States.