The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRYANT
Pursuant to the Opinion And Order entered this day, judgment is hereby entered for plaintiff in this case.
William B. Bryant / JUDGE
Dated: December 26, 1975.
This matter is now before the Court on plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment and Defendant's Motion To Dismiss Or, In The Alternative, For Summary Judgment. The action is brought as an appeal from a final administrative decision of the Board of Appeals and Review of the Civil Service Commission denying plaintiff Fitzgerald an award of costs and attorneys' fees for the protracted administrative proceedings before the Commission. This Court has jurisdiction of the action pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. Plaintiff having exhausted his administrative remedies, the matter is now properly before this Court for decision.
This action is the latest round in what is now a marathon six-year battle between A. Ernest Fitzgerald and his Pentagon and Civil Service Commission adversaries. On January 5, 1970, immediately following his testimony before the Congress regarding the already-massive cost overruns in the development and production of the Air Force's C-5A cargo plane,
Fitzgerald was fired by the Air Force, purportedly by reason of the abolition of his position through a reduction-in-force and the unavailability of another appropriate position within the Department. Fitzgerald appealed his removal to the Civil Service Commission, contending that he was illegally fired from his job in retaliation for his testimony about the C-5A. The Commission granted him a hearing but refused to open it to the press and public. Only after judicially ordered to do so did the Commission open the hearings.
Finally, on September 18, 1973, almost four years after his initial separation, the Commission ordered Fitzgerald restored, retroactively to the date of his dismissal,
to the position from which he was improperly separated, or to any other position of like grade, salary and tenure in the Excepted Service and with the same or similar qualifications requirements as his former position. (Decision of September 18, 1973, p. 20).
Significantly, the Commission specifically found that
the decision to abolish Mr. Fitzgerald's position and to separate him by reduction-in-force was influenced by, and resulted from, reasons that were personal to the appellant; and . . . we find his separation by reduction-in-force to be improper, inappropriate and contrary to the spirit, intent and letter of the Commission's regulation. (Decision of September 18, 1973, p. 20).
Fitzgerald has, at each stage of his proceedings before the Commission, requested the award of costs and attorneys' fees for those proceedings. At each stage the Commission has denied that request, claiming that it is without power to determine and order the compensation of reasonable costs and attorneys' fees to an illegally fired veteran preference eligible employee. It is the Commission's authority to make such an award to a preference eligible veteran employee under the "corrective action" provision of 5 U.S.C. § 7701 which is the sole issue in this action. There being no genuine issue of material fact, the matter is ripe for summary judgment.
Many of the government's arguments in this case either miss the point entirely or misconstrue the legal question at issue here. This case does not in any way concern the inherent or equitable power of a federal district court to award costs or attorneys' fees for litigation before it. The cases cited by the government to show that the Court may not award fees here are therefore wholly inapposite. Specifically, those cases such as Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U.S. 240, 95 S. Ct. 1612, 44 L. Ed. 2d 141 (1975) and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians v. Morton, 163 U.S. App. D.C. 90, 499 F.2d 1095 (1974), cert. denied 420 U.S. 962, 95 S. Ct. 1351, 43 L. Ed. 2d 439 holding that the federal courts in civil actions have no general authority to award attorneys' fees are simply not determinative of the question of sub judice. The proceedings for which fees are asked are not a civil action, and the plaintiff does not ask the Court to award the fees but rather to declare that the Civil Service Commission may award fees and costs for administrative proceedings before it.
Likewise inapposite is 28 U.S.C. § 2412, which prohibits the award of fees and costs by the Court in litigation before it. Again, the government's argument here misconstrues the nature of the question.
What is in fact controlling here is the holding of the Court of Appeals for this Circuit in the case of Turner v. Federal Communications Commission, 169 U.S. App. D.C. 113, 514 F.2d 1354 (1975). That case holds that an administrative agency cannot grant attorneys' fees to a party in proceedings before it absent a statutory grant of such authority by the Congress. What is at issue in this case, therefore, is whether Congress has given the Commission that authority in the instant situation.
Fitzgerald, recognizing all of the foregoing, contends that the requisite statutory authority is found in 5 ...