U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts ruled in favor of the National Treasury Employees Union, dismissing the government's jurisdictional and procedural objections to the complaint.
The 2007 lawsuit calls into question the legality of a program designed to bring new employees into government quickly. NTEU claims that agencies are using the special hiring authority associated with the two-year internship program to circumvent merit system principles, adversely affecting current employees' opportunities for promotion.
"The way agencies are misusing FCIP amounts to a frontal assault on the competitive examination process as the primary method of hiring for competitive service positions," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley in a statement praising the ruling.
In a June report on federal hiring authorities, the Merit Systems Protection Board noted that FCIP has become the third most frequently used tool to bypass the competitive application process. In fiscal 2005, the report said, almost 10,000 new hires came into government through the program, and in 2007, the number rose to 17,000. In General Schedule grades 5 and 7, more than half of new hires in fiscal 2005 came in through the intern program.
Officials from the Office of Personnel Management -- the plaintiff in the case -- were not immediately available to comment on the decision.
NTEU also has urged the Obama administration to rescind the executive order which created the career intern program in 2000.