This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
A public officer has no property right to future tenure of his office, and does not hold it by contract with the state. Accordingly a statute which abolishes an office or reduces its term does not impair the obligation of contracts.1 Thus the office of mayor,2 or state pomologist,3 may be abolished. In North Carolina a public office was once held to be so far property that a statute abolishing it impaired the obligation of contracts.4 Even in this state if the statute creating the office provided for a suspension of the officer under certain facts, a suspension under such facts did not impair the obligation of contracts.5 The earlier decisions have finally been overruled, and North Carolina has adopted the rule held by other states, that a public officer has no contractual right to his office.6 As far as his salary has been earned, however, he has a contract right therein, which is protected by this clause.7 His right under certain circumstances by reason of length of service to share in a pension fund created in part by deductions from his salary is, if a property or contract right, not destroyed by a subsequent statute abolishing his office. Hence such statute is not unconstitutional.8 Persons who have contracts with the state have no property rights in the state agencies with which they deal. Hence, statutes changing such state agencies do not impair the obligation of contracts.9
12 Shell v. Beeland, 123 Ala. 569; 26 So. 342; Harold v. Herrington, 95 Ala. 395; 11 So. 131; Watson Seminary v. Pike County, 149 Mo. 57; 45 L. R. A. 675; 50 S. W. 880.
13 Cushman v. Hale, 68 Vt. 444; 35 Atl. 382.
14 Salt Co. v. East Saginaw, 13 Wall. (U. S.) 373; affirming 19 Mich. 259; 2 Am. Rep. 82.
1 State v. Tutty, 41 Fed. 753; 7 L. R. A. 50; Berthelemy v. Johnson, 3 B. Mon. (Ky.) 90; 38 Am. Dec. 179; Baughman v. Baughman, 7 Ohio Dec. 433; Grant v. Grant, 12 S. C. 29; 32 Am. Rep. 506; State v. Duket, 90 Wis. 272; 48 Am. St. Rep. 928; 31 L. R. A. 515; 63 N. W. 83.
2 Maynard v. Hill. 125 U. S. 190; Noel v. Ewing, 9 Ind. 37; Maguire v. Maguire, 7 Dana (Ky.) 181.
3 MeCraney v. MeCraney, 5 la. 232; 68 Am. Dec. 702; Clark v.
Clark, 10 N. H. 380; 34 Am. Dec. 165; State v. Duket, 90 Wis. 272; 48 Am. St. Rep. 928; 31 L. R. A. 515; 63 N. W. 83.
1 In many states such statutes are Rep. 801; 53 L. R. A. 837; 49 Atl. unconstitutional because of other provisions of state constitutions. These questions are of course not discussed here. Butler v. Commonwealth, 10 How. (U. S.) 402; Vin-cenheller v. Reagan, 69 Ark. 460; 64 S. W. 278; Coffin v. State, 15 Ind. 157; Donaghy v. Macy, 167 Mass. 178; 45 N. E. 87; Hoboken v. Gear, 27 N. J. L. 265; Commonwealth v. Moir, 199 Pa. St. 534; 85 Am. St. 351; 53 L. R. A. 837; 49 Atl. 351.
2 Commonwealth v. Moir, 199 Pa. St. 534; 85 Am. St. Rep. 801; 53 L. R. A. 837; 49 Atl. 351.
3 Vincenheller v. Reagan, 69 Ark. 460; 64 S. W. 278.