Loeffler v. Frank

486 U. S. 549

June 13, 1988

A Postal Service employee named Loeffler challenged his firing as discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was reinstated with back pay, but he wanted prejudgment interest too. Traditionally, government agencies have been immune from prejudgment interest, but Loeffler was undaunted, and argued that the postal reorganization of 1970 had waived interest immunity.

The Court ruled 5-3 that Loeffler could obtain prejudgment interest (Kennedy did not participate). Blackmun stressed that the postal reorganization had allowed the agency to “sue and be sued,” a clause that has the effect of making government agencies basically like private companies when it comes to lawsuits. The reorganization thus waived interest immunity for all time. True, in a case against the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Civil Rights Act, standing alone, did not waive interest immunity, but the Library of Congress had no such “sue and be sued” provision like the Postal Service did. Blackmun said that legislative history supported all of these conclusions.

White, joined by Rehnquist and O’Connor, filed one of those annoying dissents which effectively said ‘I agree with what the lower court judges said, but will not repeat their reasoning here – so go find the lower court ruling and read that instead.’

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