Albany Law Review, Vol. 33, p. 642, 1969
8 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2010
Date Written: 1969
This article is an examination of the Gardner v. Broderick and Uniformed Sanitation Men Assoc. v. Commissioner of Sanitation of the City of New York decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Gardner case involved a New York City police officer appearing before a grand jury investigating alleged criminal conduct among police officers. The testifying officer refused to sign a waiver of immunity from prosecution. He was dismissed from employment following an administrative hearing. The New York courts upheld the dismissal, but it was finally overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Uniformed Sanitation men case involved fifteen employees from the department of sanitation, twelve of whom refused to testify in an investigation for alleged misconduct and were fired. The remaining three answered the questions without asserting the privilege, and received suspensions. At a grand jury, the three refused to sign waivers of immunity and were fired. Again, the Supreme Court reversed the decision.
Its rational was that public employees may not be compelled to choose between waiving a constitutional privilege and losing their jobs. They are subject to dismissal, however, if they refuse to answer questions relating directly to the performance of their public duties, so long as they have not been required to relinquish constitutional rights.
This article provides the background for the rationale use by the Supreme Court and delves into the issues that were presented in the cases.
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