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Wiener v. United States

A "quasi-judicial" Body

In 1948, Congress passed the War Claims Act to provide a means of settling limited claims by internees, prisoners of war, religious organizations, and others who suffered personal injury or property damage at the hands of the enemy during World War II. To adjudicate these claims, a three-member commission, including two attorneys, was to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the task. The appointees were to serve until the commission had finished its work. Myron Wiener was among those chosen for the commission by President Harry S. Truman. Wiener took office shortly after being confirmed by the Senate on 2 June 1950.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower succeeded Truman as president in 1953, he intended to replace the commission with one of his own choosing. When Eisenhower asked for the resignation of the existing commissioners, however, Myron Wiener refused, stating that he had been appointed for the life of the commission. President Eisenhower persisted, dismissing Wiener on 10 December 1953. The War Claims Commission itself lasted for less than six more months, disbanding on 1 July 1954. Ironically, none of President Eisenhower's appointees took office before the commission was dissolved.

Feeling that he had been improperly removed from the commission, Wiener filed a suit with the court of claims, asking for back pay between the date of his dismissal and the day the commission was abolished. His petition was denied.

When Wiener pressed his case before the U.S. Supreme Court on 18 November 1957, his appeal hinged not on the nature of his dismissal itself, but rather on maintaining the independence of special commissions. Reviewing the Constitution and the terms of the War Claims Act, the Court could find nothing to support President Eisenhower's claim to have the power to arbitrarily remove members of "quasi-judicial" bodies. On 30 June 1958, the Court decided unanimously in Wiener's favor.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Wiener v. United States - A "quasi-judicial" Body, Shifting Precedents, Justice Felix Frankfurter