Court Rules That District Courts Can Hear Mixed Cases Dismissed For Lack Of Jurisdiction, Over Justice Gorsuch’s First Dissent

In Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, the Court had to determine which federal court could hear an appeal from the Board’s decision that it lacked jurisdiction to hear a federal employee’s case. When Perry was fired from his job with the U.S. Census Bureau, he claimed discrimination (making his case a “mixed” one), but then signed a settlement agreeing to a suspension and retirement. He appealed the settlement to the Board, alleging that the settlement was coerced. The Board disagreed, and decided that it lacked jurisdiction to hear his appeal because his settlement was voluntary. In cases where the employee raised statutory defenses, the Federal Circuit heard appeals from the Board, under deferential review, but district courts heard appeals in mixed cases on a de novo review. Perry appealed to the D.C. Circuit, which held that the Federal Circuit had jurisdiction. The Court, in a 7-2 decision by Justice Ginsburg, held that the district court has jurisdiction to hear appeals of mixed cases dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, deciding that the reason for the dismissal did not change the nature of the case. Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Thomas, in his first dissent, argued that the statute’s plain language required that the Federal Circuit hear such appeals, and that the Court’s decision would create more problems than it solved. A link to the opinion is here.