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U.S. Supreme Court

Army & Air Force Exchange Svc. v. Sheehan, 456 U.S. 728 (1982)

Army and Air Force Exchange Service v. Sheehan

No. 80-1437

Argued February 23, 1982

Decided June 1, 1982

456 U.S. 728


Respondent, while employed in a data processing position with petitioner Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), was selected for participation in the AAFES Executive Management Program (EMP). A regulation provided that EMP status could be withdrawn for conduct off the job reflecting discredit upon the AAFES. Respondent was discharged from the AAFES after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of violating state drug laws off the base. His administrative appeal was denied. While that appeal was pending before the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, respondent filed suit against the AAFES in Federal District Court, alleging that his rights to due process and to a free and impartial appeal pursuant to AAFES regulations were infringed, and seeking reinstatement and damages, including backpay. The District Court dismissed the complaint for want of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the Tucker Act, which gives the federal courts jurisdiction over certain suits against the United States founded upon express or implied contracts, provided a basis for jurisdiction over respondent's claims for monetary relief. The court held that, whether or not respondent's employment was initiated by appointment or contract, the AAFES regulations governing separation procedures created an implied-in-fact contract that the AAFES would adhere to those regulations while respondent continued in AAFES employment, and that respondent's allegation that his dismissal violated those regulations was equivalent to an allegation of breach of an implied-in-fact contract.

Held: The Tucker Act did not confer jurisdiction over respondent's claim for money damages. Pp. 456 U. S. 733-741.

(a) Nothing in the record or relevant regulations indicates that respondent was employed pursuant to an express contract. Rather, the evidence shows that he was appointed to his positions. With respect to employment in the data processing position, regulations prohibited the AAFES from negotiating a contract with him, and his selection to the EMP clearly was pursuant to an appointment. There is no reason to remand for an evidentiary hearing on the nature of respondent's employment status. Pp. 456 U. S. 735-738.

Page 456 U. S. 729

(b) The Court of Appeals erred in implying a contract based solely on the AAFES personnel regulations and in premising Tucker Act jurisdiction on those regulations, which do not specifically authorize awards of money damages. United States v. Testan, 424 U. S. 392, is controlling. Moreover, Congress' intent to prohibit Back Pay Act claims by AAFES employees, as opposed to federal employees generally, would be subverted if an AAFES employee could sue under the Tucker Act whenever he asserted a violation of the AAFES regulations governing termination. In fact, the Court of Appeals' reasoning would extend Tucker Act jurisdiction to reach any complaint filed by a federal employee alleging the violation of a personnel statute or regulation. Pp. 456 U. S. 738-741.

619 F.2d 1132, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,concurred in the judgment.

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