Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hatch Act Definition:

An American statute which controls political activity of government employees.

A 1939 American law which set strict limits on the political activities of federal government employees.

The legislation has been since been extended indirectly, or simply emulated in most states, in regards to state or local government employees.

So-called because it was sponsored by New Mexico, Democrat, Senator Carl Hatch (1889-1963; pictured).

Carl Hatch According to the statute, government employees are prohibited from running for or holding public office or participating in the campaign management for another.

On two occasions, the Hatch Act, formally 5 USCA 7324, has been brought to the Supreme Court, both times based First Amendment arguments; that the prohibitions were unduly  restrictive on the private constitutional liberties of government employees.

The act was upheld in both cases, United Public Workers of America v Mitchell 330 US 75 (1947) and United States Civil Service Commission v National Association of Letter Carriers 413 US 548 (1973).

In Mitchell, Justice Reed wrote for the majority:

"When actions of civil servants in the judgment of Congress menace the integrity and the competency of the service, legislation to forestall such danger and adequate to maintain its usefulness is required.
"The Hatch Act is the answer of Congress to this need.  We cannot say with such a background that these restrictions are unconstitutional."

References or Further Reading

Hatch Act for Federal Employees, US Office of Special Counsel at osc.gov/ha_fed.htm

Hatch Act for Local or State Employees, US Office of Special Counsel at osc.gov/ha_state.htm




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