LaChance v. Erickson, 961395

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
PartiesJanice R. LaCHANCE, Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management, Petitioner, v. Lester E. ERICKSON, Jr., et al
Docket Number961395
Decision Date21 January 1998

522 U.S. 262
118 S.Ct. 753
139 L.Ed.2d 695

Janice R. LaCHANCE, Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management, Petitioner,

v.

Lester E. ERICKSON, Jr., et al.

No. 96-1395.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued Dec. 2, 1997.
Decided Jan. 21, 1998.**
Syllabus*

Respondents, federal employees subject to adverse actions by their agencies, each made false statements to agency investigators with respect to the misconduct with which they were charged. In each case, the agency additionally charged the false statement as a ground for adverse action, and the action taken against the employee was based in part on the added charge. The Merit Systems Protection Board (Board) upheld that portion of each penalty that was based on the underlying charge, but overturned the false statement portion, ruling, inter alia, that the claimed statement could not be considered in setting the appropriate punishment. In separate appeals, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Board that no penalty could be based on a false denial of the underlying claim.

Held: Neither the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause nor the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. §1101 et seq., precludes a federal agency from sanctioning an employee for making false statements to the agency regarding his alleged employment-related misconduct. It is impossible to square the result reached below with the holding in, e.g., Bryson v. United States, 396 U.S. 64, 72, 90 S.Ct. 355, 360, 24 L.Ed.2d 264, that a citizen may decline to answer a Government question, or answer it honestly, but cannot with impunity knowingly and willfully answer it with a falsehood. There is no hint of a right to falsely deny charged conduct in §7513(a), which authorizes an agency to impose the sort of penalties involved here "for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service,'' and then accords the employee four carefully delineated procedural rights-advance written notice of the charges, a reasonable time to answer, legal representation, and a specific written decision. Nor can such a right be found in due process, the core of which is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Even assuming that respondents had a protected property interest in their employment, this Court rejects, both on the basis of precedent and principle, the Federal Circuit's view that a "meaningful opportunity to be heard'' includes a right to make false statements with respect to the charged conduct. It is well established that a criminal defendant's right to testify does not include the right to commit perjury, e.g., Nix v. Whiteside, 475 U.S. 157, 173, 106 S.Ct. 988, 997, 89 L.Ed.2d 123, and that punishment may constitutionally be imposed, e.g., United States v. Wong, 431 U.S. 174, 178, 97 S.Ct. 1823, 1825-1826, 52 L.Ed.2d 231, or enhanced, e.g., United States v. Dunnigan, 507 U.S. 87, 97, 113 S.Ct. 1111, 1118, 122 L.Ed.2d 445, because of perjury or the filing of a false affidavit required by statute, e.g., Dennis v. United States, 384 U.S. 855, 86 S.Ct. 1840, 16 L.Ed.2d 973. The fact that respondents were not under oath is irrelevant, since they were not charged with perjury, but with making false statements during an agency investigation, a charge that does not require sworn statements. Moreover, any claim that employees not allowed to make false statements might be coerced into admitting misconduct, whether they believe that they are guilty or not, in order to avoid the more severe penalty of removal for falsification is entirely frivolous. United States v. Grayson, 438 U.S. 41, 55, 98 S.Ct. 2610, 2618, 57 L.Ed.2d 582. If answering an agency's investigatory question could expose an employee to a criminal prosecution, he may exercise his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. See, e.g., Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 67, 26 S.Ct. 370, 376, 50 L.Ed. 652. An agency, in ascertaining the truth or falsity of the charge, might take that failure to respond into consideration, see Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 318, 96 S.Ct. 1551, 1558, 47 L.Ed.2d 810, but there is nothing inherently irrational about such an investigative posture, see Konigsberg v. State Bar of Cal., 366 U.S. 36, 81 S.Ct. 997, 6 L.Ed.2d 105. Pp. ___-___.

89 F.3d 1575 (C.A.Fed.1996) (first judgment), and 92 F.3d 1208 (C.A.Fed.1996) (second judgment), reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Seth P. Waxman, Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Paul E. Marth, Greeensboro, NC, for respondents.

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by this case is whether either the Due Process Clause or the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), 5 U.S.C. §1101 et seq., precludes 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. We hold that they do not.

Respondents Walsh, Erickson, Kye, Barrett, Roberts, and McManus are government employees who were the subject of adverse actions by the various agencies for which they worked. Each employee made false statements to agency investigators with respect to the misconduct with which they were charged. In each case, the agency additionally charged the false statement as a ground for adverse action, and the action taken in each was based in part on the added charge. The employees separately appealed the actions taken against them to the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board). The Board upheld that portion of the penalty based on the underlying charge in each case, but overturned the false statement charge. The Board further held that an employee's false statements could not be used for purposes of impeaching the employee's credibility, nor could they be considered in setting the appropriate...

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202 practice notes
  • Trs. of the Gen. Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. v. Patterson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 21-634-KSM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 19, 2021
    ...). In turn, "the core of due process is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard." Id. (quoting LaChance v. Erickson , 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 (1998) ); see also id. (identifying "notice, a neutral arbiter, an opportunity 527 F.Supp.3d 766 to ma......
  • People v. Allen, No. S148949.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 28, 2008
    ...testify does not authorize a witness to commit perjury, and counsel must not cooperate in a client's perjury. (LaChance v. Erickson (1998) 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 ["a criminal defendant's right to testify does not include the right to commit perjury"]; Nix v. White......
  • Stevens v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., A143043
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 2015
    ...ample process. “The core of due process is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.” (LaChance v. Erickson (1998) 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695; see also Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill(1985) 470 U.S. 532, 547, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 84 L.Ed.2d 494.) W......
  • U.S. v. Veal, No. 95-4427
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 4, 1998
    ...for perjury. See United States v. Olmeda, 839 F.2d 1433, 1435-37 (11th Cir.1988); see also LaChance v. Erickson, --- U.S. ----, ----, 118 S.Ct. 753, 756, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 (1998) ("It is well established that a criminal defendant's right to testify does not include the right to commit Even in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
201 cases
  • Trs. of the Gen. Assembly of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. v. Patterson, CIVIL ACTION NO. 21-634-KSM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 19, 2021
    ...). In turn, "the core of due process is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard." Id. (quoting LaChance v. Erickson , 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 (1998) ); see also id. (identifying "notice, a neutral arbiter, an opportunity 527 F.Supp.3d 766 to ma......
  • People v. Allen, No. S148949.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 28, 2008
    ...testify does not authorize a witness to commit perjury, and counsel must not cooperate in a client's perjury. (LaChance v. Erickson (1998) 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 ["a criminal defendant's right to testify does not include the right to commit perjury"]; Nix v. White......
  • Stevens v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., A143043
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 2015
    ...ample process. “The core of due process is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.” (LaChance v. Erickson (1998) 522 U.S. 262, 266, 118 S.Ct. 753, 139 L.Ed.2d 695; see also Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill(1985) 470 U.S. 532, 547, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 84 L.Ed.2d 494.) W......
  • U.S. v. Veal, No. 95-4427
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 4, 1998
    ...for perjury. See United States v. Olmeda, 839 F.2d 1433, 1435-37 (11th Cir.1988); see also LaChance v. Erickson, --- U.S. ----, ----, 118 S.Ct. 753, 756, 139 L.Ed.2d 695 (1998) ("It is well established that a criminal defendant's right to testify does not include the right to commit Even in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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