Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

NELSON ET AL. v. COUNTY LOS ANGELES ET AL.

decided: February 29, 1960.

NELSON ET AL
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT.

Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart; Warren took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Clark

[ 362 U.S. Page 2]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, when employees of the County of Los Angeles, California, were subpoenaed by and appeared before a Subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but refused to answer certain questions concerning subversion. Previously, each petitioner had been ordered by the County Board of Supervisors to answer any questions asked by the Subcommittee relating to his subversive activity, and § 1028.1 of the Government Code of the State of California*fn1 made it the duty of any

[ 362 U.S. Page 3]

     public employee to give testimony relating to such activity on pain of discharge "in the manner provided by law." Thereafter the County discharged petitioners on the ground of insubordination and violation of § 1028.1 of the Code. Nelson, a permanent social worker employed by the County's Department of Charities, was, upon his request, given a Civil Service Commission hearing which resulted in a confirmation of his discharge. Globe was a temporary employee of the same department and was denied a hearing on his discharge on the ground that, as such, he was not entitled to a hearing under the Civil Service Rules adopted pursuant to the County Charter. Petitioners then filed these petitions for mandates seeking

[ 362 U.S. Page 4]

     reinstatement, contending that the California statute and their discharges violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nelson's discharge was affirmed by the District Court of Appeal, 163 Cal. App. 2d 607, 329 P. 2d 978, and Globe's summary dismissal was likewise affirmed, 163 Cal. App. 2d 595, 329 P. 2d 971. A petition for review in each of the cases was denied without opinion by the Supreme Court of California, three judges dissenting. 163 Cal. App. 2d 614, 329 P. 2d 983; 163 Cal. App. 2d 606, 329 P. 2d 978. We granted certiorari. 360 U.S. 928. The judgment in Nelson's case is affirmed by an equally divided Court and will not be discussed. We conclude that Globe's dismissal was valid.

On April 6, 1956, Globe was served with a subpoena to appear before the Subcommittee at Los Angeles. On the same date, he was served with a copy of an order of the County Board of Supervisors, originally issued February 19, 1952, concerning appearances before the Subcommittee. This order provided, among other things, that it was the duty of any employee to appear before the Subcommittee when so ordered or subpoenaed, and to answer questions concerning subversion. The order specifically stated that any "employee who disobeys the declaration of this duty and order will be considered to have been insubordinate . . . and that such insubordination shall constitute grounds for discharge . . . ."*fn2 At the appointed time, Globe appeared before the Subcommittee and was interrogated by its counsel concerning his familiarity with the John Reid Club. He claimed that this was a matter which was entirely his "own business," and, upon being

[ 362 U.S. Page 5]

     pressed for an answer, he stated that the question was "completely out of line as far as my rights as a citizen are concerned, [and] I refuse to answer this question under the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States." On the same grounds he refused to answer further questions concerning the Club, including one relating to his own membership. Upon being asked if he had observed any Communist activities on the part of members of the Club, Globe refused to answer, and suggested to committee counsel "that you get one of your trained seals up here and ask them." He refused to testify whether he was "a member of the Communist Party now" "on the same grounds" and "as previously stated for previous reasons." On May 2, by letter, Globe was discharged, "without further notice," on "the grounds that [he had] been guilty of insubordination and of violation of Section 1028.1 of the Government Code of the State of California . . . ." The letter recited the fact that Globe had been served with a copy of the Board order relating to his "duty to testify as a County employee . . . before said committee" and that, although appearing as directed, he had refused to answer the question, "Are you a member of the Communist Party now?" Thereafter Globe requested a hearing before the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, but it found that, as a temporary employee, he was not entitled to a hearing under the Civil Service Rules.*fn3 This the petitioner does not dispute.

[ 362 U.S. Page 6]

     However, Globe contends that, despite his temporary status, his summary discharge was arbitrary and unreasonable and, therefore, violative of due process. He reasons that his discharge was based on his invocation before the Subcommittee of his rights under the First and Fifth Amendments. But the record does not support even an inference in this regard, and both the order and the statute upon which the discharge was based avoided it. In fact, California's court held to the contrary, saying, "At no time has the cause of petitioner's discharge been alleged to be anything but insubordination and a violation of section 1028.1, nor indeed under the record before us could it be." 163 Cal. App. 2d, at 599, 329 P. 2d, at 974. Moreover, this finding is buttressed by the language of the order and of California's statute. Both require the employee to answer any interrogation in the field outlined. Failure to answer "on any ground whatsoever any such questions" renders the employee "guilty of insubordination" and requires that he "be suspended and dismissed from his employment in the manner provided by law." California law in this regard, as declared by its court, is that Globe "has no vested right to county employment and may therefore be discharged summarily." We take this interpretation of California law as binding upon us.

We, therefore, reach Globe's contention that his summary discharge was nevertheless arbitrary and unreasonable. In this regard he places his reliance on Slochower v. Board ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.