Vanderbilt Law Review


James W. Irwin

First Page



A recent issue of Vanderbilt Law Review featured an article by Dalmas H. Nelson, Instructor in Political Science, University of Nebraska, entitled "Public Employees and the Right to Engage in Political Activity,"' a broadside blast at the Hatch Political Activities Act, section 92 and section 12.3 It is strikingly well written, and reflects exhaustive research as evidenced by voluminous bibliography and quotations. Noteworthy is the citation of many authorities whose views differ from the author's. Notwithstanding admiration for those virtues, it is admitted that the views of the author of the article call to mind a sentiment expressed by the distinguished Irish author, C. S. Lewis:

"But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything .... Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of everyone. How can one be so nearly right, and yet, invariably, just not right?" (Emphasis added.)

The term "Hatch Act" will be applied to its sections 9 and 12, the prohibitory provisions over which the United States Civil Service Commission has jurisdiction, although the statute embraces several other parts. Section 9 applies to officers and employees, with stated exceptions, of the executive branch of the federal government, and prohibits their using official authority or influence to affect an election, or taking "any active part in political management or in political campaigns.' The penalty is dismissal or suspension for not less than ninety days. Section 12 applies the same proscriptions to officers or employees of state or local agencies, with similar exceptions, whose principal employment is in connection with activities receiving federal aid. When the Commission finds a violation of section 12, it may find a penalty not warranted. If one is imposed, it is removal from employment, but the respondent may be reinstated after eighteen months.