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Edmond v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Edmond (Plaintiff) appealed from a decision by the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that the appointment of the judges to that court by the Secretary of Treasury was unconstitutional.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under the Appointments Clause, Congress may grant the authority to appoint inferior officers to the President, to the courts, or to the heads of departments.

    Facts.

    The Secretary of the Transportation had been granted the authority to appoint members of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals by 49 U.S.C. § 323(a). Plaintiff argued in his appeal from a criminal case decided by the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals that the judges’ appointments were unconstitutional as a violation of the Appointments Clause.

    Issue.

    Can Congress grant the authority to appoint inferior officers to the heads of departments?

    Held.

    (Scalia, J.) Yes. Under the Appointments Clause, Congress may grant the authority to appoint inferior officers to the President, to the courts, or to the heads of departments. The Appointments Clause of article II of the Constitution requires the President to appoint the principal officers of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The officers whose work is directed and supervised by these principal officers are inferior officers and Congress may grant the authority to appoint inferior officers to the head of departments, such as the Secretary of Transportation. The judicial appointments were therefore valid.

    Concurrence.

    (Souter, J.) An inferior officer must have a superior officer, but not every officer with a superior is automatically an inferior officer for Appointments Clause purposes. The duties, jurisdiction, and tenure associated with the office itself must be analyzed in determining whether an officer is an inferior or a principal officer.

    Discussion.

    The President appoints judges with the advice and consent of the Senate. However, the judges of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals were found to be inferior officers because they fell under the supervision of the General Counsel of the Department of Transportation in his capacity as Judge Advocate General for the Coast Guard.


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