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HADIGIAN v. BOARD OF GOVERNORS

December 6, 1978

Louis HADIGIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS, FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRICA

MEMORANDUM

In this action plaintiff challenges the decision of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) to dismiss him from his position as an applications analyst with the Board. The case is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. There are no issues of disputed fact.

 Plaintiff's complaint raises numerous issues, but focuses its challenge on the validity of the statutory framework within which the Board worked in reaching its decision to dismiss him, and on the Board's adherence to its own internal procedures in implementing that decision. Before embarking on a discussion of the issues, however, a review of the procedural history and present posture of this case is necessary.

 Plaintiff was hired by the Board on March 30, 1970, as a senior computer programmer. He received a raise in pay in April 1971 and an increase in grade in June 1972. Although there were some questions about his performance after his increase in grade, plaintiff continued to receive periodic pay increases through June 1974, but subsequent to that time he received generally unsatisfactory performance ratings.

 In March 1976 the Board stripped plaintiff of many of his responsibilities, denying him further access to its computer, and on April 2, 1976, he was notified that the Board proposed to dismiss him. The notice advised him that he would be suspended with pay from his duties as of April 5, 1976, and that a final decision in his case would be made by May 6, 1976. The notice also specified the reasons for the proposed action, *fn1" plaintiff's right to reply orally or in writing to the director of personnel, his right to have counsel represent him, and procedures for gaining access to the Board to obtain information to prepare his reply.

 Plaintiff met with the director of personnel on April 13 and 14, 1976, and the director agreed to extend the date for a final decision from May 6 to July 15, 1976, while retaining plaintiff on leave with pay status. The Board provided plaintiff with office space from that point on so that he could pursue his job search outside the agency and prepare his case, but restricted his movements in and out of, and within, its offices.

 On July 8, 1976, plaintiff again requested a postponement of the final decision and an extension was granted to July 30, 1976. On July 30 plaintiff submitted his written response to the charges against him, but to no avail. He was notified of the final decision to dismiss him by telephone on August 2. The Board informed him that a copy of the final determination was available to him at its offices, but he did not receive a copy in the mail until August 3, 1976.

 Shortly after receiving notification of his dismissal, plaintiff requested a de novo agency hearing, a right accorded him by Board procedures. But before the date of the requested hearing plaintiff filed this action. The Board opposed district court review at that stage, moving for dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. After considering the question, on March 28, 1977, this Court ordered plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies, but retained jurisdiction over the action.

 In the meantime, the Board's hearing officer had issued a recommended decision which sustained the dismissal, and this decision in turn was sustained by the Board's staff director for management on March 18. Plaintiff made a final appeal to the vice-chairman for internal Board administration, and on April 28 the vice-chairman affirmed the dismissal. The matter is now before this Court for a review of the administrative action.

 Scope of Review

 Judicial review of adverse personnel actions in the federal courts is narrowly constrained. There is no provision for de novo review; rather, the district courts are limited to assuring that the agency action was not arbitrary or capricious, was reached in accordance with relevant statutory and procedural requirements, and was not unconstitutional. 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)-(D) (1976); Doe v. Hampton, 184 U.S.App.D.C. 373, 378-79, 566 F.2d 265, 271-72 (1977). The review is not a substantial evidence review. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires a substantial evidence review only when a statute specifically provides for an agency hearing. 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(E) (1976); See Doe v. Hampton, supra, 184 U.S.App.D.C. at 378, 566 F.2d at 271; Wood v. U. S. Post Office Dept., 472 F.2d 96, 99 (7th Cir. 1973), Cert. denied, 412 U.S. 939, 93 S. Ct. 2775, 37 L. Ed. 2d 399 (1973), On remand, 381 F. Supp. 1371 (N.D.Ill.1973), Aff'd, 511 F.2d 1405 (7th Cir. 1975). In this case, the applicable statutes and regulations make it clear that a hearing is not required. 5 U.S.C. §§ 554(a)(2), 7501, 7512 (1976); 5 C.F.R. § 752.202(b) (1978).

 Discussion

 Plaintiff served in the armed forces from 1952 to 1954, when he received an honorable discharge, and is thus "preference eligible" under 5 U.S.C. § 2108 (1976). As a consequence, he claims entitlement to the expanded procedural rights accorded preference eligible employees in adverse actions under 5 U.S.C. §§ 7512 & 7501 (1976). *fn2" He argues here that the Board did not afford him these rights, charging specifically that: (1) the notice of proposed adverse action did not adequately apprise him of the charges against him as required by section 7501 and 5 C.F.R. § 752.202(a) (1978); (2) the Board did not afford him an opportunity to answer charges against him in person, as is required by Board procedures and Civil Service Commission regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 752.202(b) (1978); (3) the Board provided him with written notice of his dismissal one day after the effective date of the dismissal rather than on or before the effective date as required by Board procedures and 5 C.F.R. § 752.202(f) (1978); (4) the Board did not notify him of ...


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