MARSHALL V. JERRICO, INC., 446 U. S. 238 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Marshall v. Jerrico, Inc., 446 U.S. 238 (1980)

Marshall v. Jerrico, Inc.

No. 79-253.


Under § 16(e) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (Act), sums collected as civil penalties for the unlawful employment of child labor are returned to the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) of the Department of Labor in reimbursement for the costs of determining violations and assessing penalties. An Assistant Regional Administrator determined that violations of child labor provisions of the Act had occurred at restaurants managed by appellee and assessed a fine against appellee, including an amount for willful violation. After appellee filed exceptions to the Assistant Regional Administrator's determination and assessment, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge, who accepted the Assistant Regional Administrator's contention that violations had occurred, but found that the violations were not willful, and reduced the total assessment accordingly. Appellee then filed suit in Federal District Court, contending that § 16(e) violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court granted summary judgment for appellee, holding that the reimbursement provision of § 16(e) created an impermissible risk of bias on the part of the Assistant Regional Administrator because a regional office's greater effort in uncovering violations could lead to an increased amount of penalties and a greater share of reimbursements for that office, and thus § 16(e) could distort the Assistant Regional Administrator's objectivity in assessing penalties.

Held: The reimbursement provision of § 16(e) does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by creating an impermissible risk of bias in the Act's enforcement and administration. Pp. 446 U. S. 242-252.

(a) Strict due process requirements as to the neutrality of officials performing judicial or quasi-judicial functions, cf. Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U. S. 510; Ward v. Monroeville, 409 U. S. 57, are not applicable to the determinations of the assistant regional administrator, whose functions resemble those of a prosecutor more closely than those of a judge. In an adversary system, prosecutors are permitted to be zealous in their

Page 446 U. S. 239

enforcement of the law. Although traditions of prosecutorial discretion do not immunize from judicial scrutiny enforcement decisions that are contrary to law, rigid standards of neutrality cannot be the same for administrative prosecutor as for judges. Pp. 446 U. S. 242-250.

(b) It is unnecessary in this case to determine with precision what limit there may be on a financial or personal interest of one who performs a prosecutorial function, for here the influence alleged to impose bias is exceptionally remote. No governmental official stands to profit economically from vigorous enforcement of child labor provisions; there is no realistic possibility that the assistant regional administrator's judgment will be distorted by the prospect of institutional gain as a result of zealous enforcement efforts; and ESA's administration of the Act has minimized any potential for bias. On this record, the possibility that an assistant regional administrator might be tempted to devote an unusually large quantity of resources to enforcement efforts in the hope that he would ultimately obtain a higher total allocation of federal funds to his office is too remote to violate the constraints applicable to the financial or personal interest of officials charged with prosecutorial or plaintiff-like functions. Pp. 446 U. S. 250-252.

Reversed and remanded. MARSHALL, J., delivered the pinion for a unanimous Court.

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