Constitutional Law – Bills of Attainder – Legislative Denial of Salary Appropriation

Plaintiff, a civil service employee of the Minnesota Department of Conservation, had held the position of Assistant Director of Game and Fish since its creation. In 1953 the legislature enacted an appropriations bill which included a provision that: “Of the amounts appropriated for salaries . . . no part shall be used to pay the salary of an Assistant Director of Game and Fish.” Plaintiff brought an action for a declaratory judgment against his immediate superior, contending that the rider was void. He introduced evidence to show that he had incurred the enmity of certain members of the legislature and that this seemingly prompted the passage of the rider. The trial court ruled that the rider fell within the federal and state constitutional prohibitions of bills of attainder. On appeal, held, reversed. The provision was simply a refusal of an appropriation for the salary of a certain office. It was not a bill of attainder since there was no evidence sufficient to show that the legislature intended this provision as punishment for a crime or some other act adjudged worthy of penalty. Starkweather v. Blair, (Minn. 1955) 71 N.W. (2d) 869.