Morton v. Mancari

417 U.S. 535, 94 S. Ct. 2474 (1974)



Where there is no clear intention otherwise, a specific statute will not be controlled or nullified by a general one, regardless of the priority of enactment.


Appellees, non-Indian employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), brought this class action claiming that the employment preference for qualified Indians in the BIA provided by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 contravened the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972, and deprived them of property rights without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment. A three-judge District Court held that the Indian preference was implicitly repealed by § 11 of the 1972 Act proscribing racial discrimination in most federal employment, and enjoined appellant federal officials from implementing any Indian employment preference policy in the BIA.


Was the Indian preference repealed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972?




The 1964 Act did not specifically outlaw employment discrimination by the Federal Government.  Yet the mechanism for enforcing longstanding Executive Orders forbidding Government discrimination had proved ineffective for the most part.  In order to remedy this, Congress, by the 1972 Act, amended the 1964 Act and proscribed discrimination in most areas of federal employment. See n. 6, supra. In general, it may be said that the substantive anti-discrimination law embraced in Title VII was carried over and applied to the Federal Government. In the absence of some affirmative showing of an intention to repeal, the only permissible justification for a repeal by implication is when the earlier and later statutes are irreconcilable. Georgia v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 324 U.S. 439, 456-457 (1945).Clearly, this is not the case here. A provision aimed at furthering Indian self-government by according an employment preference within the BIA for qualified members of the governed group can readily co-exist with a general rule prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race. Any other conclusion can be reached only by formalistic reasoning that ignores both the history and purposes of the preference and the unique legal relationship between the Federal Government and tribal Indians. Furthermore, the Indian preference statute is a specific provision applying to a very specific situation. The 1972 Act, on the other hand, is of general application.  Where there is no clear intention otherwise, a specific statute will not be controlled or nullified by a general one, regardless of the priority of enactment. 

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