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Myers v. United States

Three Strong Dissents

Each of the three justices who opposed the Myers decision had separate, but similar concerns. Justice McReynolds feared the Court went too far by giving the executive branch independent power to remove federal employees. Congress has constitutional authority to appoint and remove "inferior officers" without the president's input. McReynolds said if Congress could appoint lesser officials, it should also be able to limit their removal.

Justice Holmes argued that the position of postmaster was created by Congress and should be dissolved by Congress. The Court's ruling defined the president's executive powers too broadly. "The duty of the president to see that the laws be executed is a duty that does not go beyond the laws or require him to achieve more than Congress sees fit to leave within his power."

Finally, Justice Brandeis distinguished between the president's removal powers regarding higher and lower offices. Removing an inferior officer--such as a postmaster--was not "an essential of government." Congress also had an obligation to protect the rights of federal employees. While Taft stressed separation of powers, Brandeis looked more to the idea of checks and balances; Congress should "preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose [of separation of powers] was, not to avoid friction, but by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among the three departments, to save the people from autocracy."

Nine years later, the Court did take back some of the broad presidential removal powers granted in Myers. In Humphrey's Executor v. United States the Court said Congress had the right to approve the removal of government officials whose jobs were not purely related to executive duties.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Myers v. United States - Significance, History Of Appointment And Removal Powers, A Former President Defends Presidential Powers, Three Strong Dissents