Humphrey's Executor v. United States

Humphrey's Executor v. United States

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Humphrey's Executor v. United States, , was a United States Supreme Court case decided during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt presidency, regarding the powers that a President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 has to remove certain executive officials of a "quasi-legislative," "quasi-judicial" administrative body created by Congress, for purely political reasons and without the consent of Congress.

Roosevelt was dissatisfied with William Humphrey, a member of the Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act...

, as Humphrey did not, in Roosevelt's view, support his New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 policies vigorously enough.

Initially and a second time, Roosevelt requested Humphrey to resign from the FTC – requests to which Humphrey did not yield. The third time, Roosevelt fired Humphrey, writing "[e]ffective as of this date you are hereby removed from the office of Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission." Nevertheless, Humphrey continued to come to work at the FTC even after he was formally fired. However, the Federal Trade Commission Act
Federal Trade Commission Act
The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 started the Federal Trade Commission , a bipartisan body of five members appointed by the president of the United States for seven-year terms. This commission was authorized to issue “cease and desist” orders to large corporations to curb unfair trade...

 only permitted the President to dismiss an FTC member for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office." Roosevelt's decision to dismiss Humphrey was based solely on political differences, rather than job performance or alleged acts of malfeasance.

The case went to the Supreme Court, but Humphrey died before the case could be decided. The case was then pursued by the executor
An executor, in the broadest sense, is one who carries something out .-Overview:...

s of his estate
Estate (law)
An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time. It is the sum of a person's assets - legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind - less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person...

; thus, the case obtained the title "Humphrey's Executor".

The Court distinguished between executive officers and quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial officers. The latter may be removed only with procedures consistent with statutory conditions enacted by Congress; the former serve at the pleasure of the President and may be removed at his discretion. The Court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission was a quasi-legislative body because of other powers it had, and therefore the President could not fire an FTC member solely for political reasons; thus, Humphrey's firing was improper.

U.S. Attorney General Robert H. Jackson
Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson was United States Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court . He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials...

, later to join the Supreme Court himself, said in his memoirs that Roosevelt was particularly annoyed by the Court's decision, as the President felt that it had been rendered for spite.

External links

  • Humphrey's Executor v. United States (full text) from Cornell University Law School's  Legal Information Institute
    Legal Information Institute
    The Legal Information Institute is a non-profit, public service of Cornell Law School that provides no-cost access to current American and international legal research sources online at . The organization is a pioneer in the delivery of legal information online. Founded in 1992 by Peter Martin and...