Lachance v. Erickson

LOCATION: Knowles' Car

DOCKET NO.: 96-1395
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

CITATION: 522 US 262 (1998)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1997
DECIDED: Jan 21, 1998

Paul E. Marth - Argued the cause for the respondents
Seth P. Waxman - Department of Justice, argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Federal employees were subjected to adverse actions by their appropriate agencies, everyone testified the false statements to investigators of the authority regarding the misbehavior of which they were accused. In every indictment, the agency furthermore charged with the adverse actions based on the grounds of the misleading testimonies. All convicted separately filed an appellation against the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board) regarding the illegal actions conducted in their relation.

The Board approved the part of each punishment that was grounded on the previous charge. The authority of Board revised each accusation with the issue of false statement. The employer decided that the misleading testimonies of the workers could not be considered as the reasons for denouncing of their credibility as could not be deemed for the imposing of the punishment for the employers` misbehavior.

The Court of Appeals confirmed such position in Lachance v. Erickson and ruled that no condemnation could be sat up on the improper dismissal of the general claim.

The appellants brought the claim due to certiorari with the issue that the Due Process Clause and the Civil Service Reform Act exclude the right of the federal agency from authorizing the employee for applying false statements to the agency regarding the employees` misbehavior.

The Supreme Court of the USA established that the Fifth Amendment and the Civil Service Reform Act didn`t empower the federal agency to uphold the indictment on the employee grounded on his asserted employment-concerned misbehavior. The case study of Lachance v Erickson underlined that considering the due process right to notice and to be heard, simultaneously as the precedents and principles, this opportunity to be listen didn`t authorize to false state assertion regarding the indicted conduct.


Does either the Due Process Clause or the Civil Service Reform Act preclude a federal agency from sanctioning an employee for making false statements to the agency regarding alleged employment-related misconduct on the part of the employee?

Media for Lachance v. Erickson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1997 in Lachance v. Erickson

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 96-1395, Janice LaChance v. Lester Erickson.

General Waxman.

Seth P. Waxman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Each of the six Federal employees in this case engaged in sanctionable employment-related misconduct and then knowingly and intentionally falsely denied the misconduct when questioned by agency investigators.

The court below held, however, that as a matter of constitutional due process the Government, as employer, may not charge these employees with both misconduct and lying about the misconduct.

Indeed, the court went beyond that to hold that an employee's deliberate falsification may not even be considered in determining the penalty for the separate underlying misconduct.

There is nothing whatsoever in the Due Process Clause or anywhere else in the Constitution, for that matter, that prevents a Government agency from sanctioning an employee who deliberately lies in response to questions about employment misconduct, whether or not the employee is also sanctioned for the misconduct itself.

When the Government acts as an employer, it has the right to demand that its employees respond honestly to work-related questions and to sanction them if they do not, just as all other employers do.

Indeed, the Government has more reason to demand honesty from its employees, as they employ... as they enjoy a public trust.

As this Court held in Lefkowitz v. Cunningham, the Government has a compelling interest in honest civil service.

The holding of the Federal Circuit in this case imposes profound anomalies and perverse incentives.

Wrongdoers who tell the truth are required under this holding to be punished just as severely as wrongdoers who then knowingly and intentionally lie about their misconduct when questioned by an investigator or a tribunal.

An employee who is questioned about wrongdoing can be punished for lying about it if he didn't do any wrong, but if he did do wrong and lies about it, he can't be separately punished for lying about it.

Under the Federal Circuit rule, a rational employee questioned about wrongdoing will always lie, since it's cost-free and perhaps he will fool or dissuade the agency.

He would be irrational to 'fess up and, indeed, I think it's fair to say that the consequences, that the rationale of the Federal Circuit's decision in this case goes beyond just what the individual agency can do and presumably would also prevent the Government in its sovereign capacity from making the false statements 1001 or, if their statements were under oath, for perjury.

So we submit that the decision of the Federal Circuit in this case, which doesn't follow any decisions by this Court or any decisions by any other Federal court, is simply wrong as a matter of constitutional law.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

General Waxman, just for purposes of discussion and not to indicate my view on what the Court's likely to do in the preceding case, but let's assume we recognize an exculpatory no doctrine, does that have any spillover effect in this situation?

Seth P. Waxman:

Boy, the only spillover effect it could have, Justice O'Connor, would be if you found an exculpatory no doctrine required as a matter of constitutional law, because the argument in favor of the exculpatory no doctrine in every court that has adopted some form of it has done so as a matter of statutory construction, trying to define what Congress could have intended.

There's no statute at issue in this case that that could be read into.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I guess as a practical matter the consequences of lying about the situation, if you're correct in this case, are often more severe than the underlying malfeasance.

Seth P. Waxman:

It may--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I would assume that could often be the case.

Seth P. Waxman:

--That could often be the case, and--

William H. Rehnquist:

I suppose the moral of that is don't lie.

Seth P. Waxman:

--That's the moral that we hope people will derive from the long line of cases in which this Court has held that even where there are important constitutional guarantees at issue, for example, in... under the self-incrimination clause, there is never a license to lie.

Here, of course, the self-incrimination clause is not even in play.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Is there any concern about the conduct on the part of the agent, because most of these interviews are on a one-to-one basis, so is that perhaps what's reflected in this, that if you had a written record or... and the person, the employee when confronted lies, that's one thing, but if it's just an oral translation, how can you be sure that the one who's doing the interview isn't dissembling?

Seth P. Waxman:

Well, a couple of answers.

First of all, in a number of the cases that are collected in this... before this Court, the false statements were written.

That is, the employee was given a list of questions, or a series of questions and provided written answers.