Myers v. United States


When it came to firing executive officials, Myers v. United States (1876) said the President had abosute authority.

In 1876, President Woodrow Wilson removed a postmaster. In doing so, he needed the Senate’s advice and consent; that is, it was stipulated in a statute at the time.

The Supreme Court had to address this question: Under the Constitution, did the President have the authority to fire an appointed official?

When presented with this question, the Supreme Court provided this holding: When it comes to the Constitution, the President has absolute authority in removing executive officials.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice William H. Taft ruled for absolute power of the president. He said: “Insofar as it attempted to prevent the President from removing executive officer who had been appointed by him by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was invalid, and that subsequent legislation of the same effect was equally so.” Chief Justice Taft was a former US President.

As for the dissent, Justice Brandeise argued against absolute removal power of the President. He said: “Assumed, as the basis of decision, that the President, acting alone, is powerless to remove an inferior civil officer appointed for a fixed term with the consent of the Senate; and that case was long regarded as so deciding.” Formerly, the President needed the advice and consent of the Senate to removal appointees.

In the past, President Andrew Johnson removed an appointee. However, the Office Tenure Act of 1867 called for the advice and consent of the Senate in removing presidential appointees. Consequently, President Jackson was impeached, which was shy of one vote.

Humphrey’s Executor v. United States overruled Myers in 1935. Justice Sutherland said: “We hold that no removal can be made during the prescribed term for which the officer is appointed except for one or more of the causes named in the applicable statute.” Basically, the Humphrey holding said the President can’t remove any administrative state head without the Senate’s approval, which returned to precedent before Myers.

In summary, the Myers case said the President had an absolute removal power. Although written nowhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court said the President had absolute power to remove Post Master heads. However, this holding would be overruled by the Humphrey case.