Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Bush, an aerospace engineer at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (Center), a facility operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), made a series of public comments critical of the Center. Lucas, the Centers director, demoted Bush on the ground that the comments were false and misleading. The Federal Employee Appeals Authority upheld the demotion, but the Civil Service Commissions (CSC) Appeals Review Board later found that the demotion had violated his First Amendment rights. NASA accepted the Board_s recommendation that Bush be restored to his former position retroactively, with back pay. While his administrated appeal was pending, Bush brought suit against Lucas in Alabama state court, seeking to recover damages for violation of his First Amendment rights. Lucas removed the action to federal district court, which granted summary judgment for Lucas. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Bush had no cause of action for damages under the First Amendment in view of the available remedies under the CSC regulations.


Can a federal employee sue for damages for the violation of his First Amendment rights by his superior where Congress has provided a comprehensive remedial scheme, although one which does not fully compensate the employee for the harm suffered?

Decision: 9 votes for Lucas, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No; not under the CSC regulations. The federal judiciary, pursuant to its common law authority, has the power to recognize new causes of action in absence of, or to supplement, statutory remedies unless Congress has expressly indicated its relief is to be exclusive. In determining whether judicial relief should be granted, federal courts are (1) to pay particular attention to special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress, and (2) to ascertain whether the purpose and comprehensive nature of the statutory scheme precludes judicial remedies where statutory relief is available. The administrative scheme in this case reflected Congress_ attempt to balance the competing interests of protecting the First Amendment rights of federal employees and maintaining a disciplined and effective workforce. Congress, not the judiciary, is in the best position to regulate the employee relations. Grant of supplementary judicial relief would disrupt this balance and is therefore inappropriate.

Cite this Page
BUSH v. LUCAS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_81_469>.
BUSH v. LUCAS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_81_469 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"BUSH v. LUCAS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1982/1982_81_469.