Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, 503 U.S. 60, 8 (1992)

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Cite as: 503 U. S. 60 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

Rep. 808, 816 (Q. B. 1702) ("If a statute gives a right, the common law will give a remedy to maintain that right . . .").

In Kendall v. United States ex rel. Stokes, 12 Pet. 524 (1838), the Court applied these principles to an Act of Congress that accorded a right of action in mail carriers to sue for adjustment and settlement of certain claims for extra services but which did not specify the precise remedy available to the carriers. After surveying possible remedies, which included an action against the Postmaster General for monetary damages, the Court held that the carriers were entitled to a writ of mandamus compelling payment under the terms of the statute. "It cannot be denied but that congress had the power to command that act to be done," the Court stated; "and the power to enforce the performance of the act must rest somewhere, or it will present a case which has often been said to involve a monstrous absurdity in a well organized government, that there should be no remedy, although a clear and undeniable right should be shown to exist. And if the remedy cannot be applied by the circuit court of this district, it exists nowhere." Id., at 624. Dooley v. United States, 182 U. S. 222, 229 (1901), also restated "the principle that a liability created by statute without a remedy may be enforced by a common-law action."

The Court relied upon this traditional presumption again after passage of the Federal Safety Appliance Act of 1893, ch. 196, 27 Stat. 531. In Texas & Pacific R. Co. v. Rigsby, 241 U. S. 33 (1916), the Court first had to determine whether the Act supported an implied right of action. After answering that question in the affirmative, the Court then upheld a claim for monetary damages: "A disregard of the command of the statute is a wrongful act, and where it results in damage to one of the class for whose especial benefit the statute was enacted, the right to recover the damages from the party in default is implied, according to a doctrine of the common law . . . ." Id., at 39. The foundation upon which the Bell v. Hood Court articulated this traditional presump-


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