Constitutional Law – Due Process – Summary Dismissal of a State Employee Who Invokes Fifth Amendment Before a Congressional Committee

While employed as a social worker by the County of Los Angeles, Globe was subpoenaed to appear before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee. California law imposed a duty on public employees to appear before certain tribunals and answer questions within specified categories, including an inquiry by a committee of the United States Congress as to past or present membership in the Communist Party. Failure to comply with the statute constituted insubordination, which would result in dismissal “in the manner provided by law.” Because Globe had not yet acquired tenure, he was not entitled under civil service rules to a hearing as a condition to dismissal. When Globe refused to answer questions by invoking the First and Fifth Amendments, he was dismissed in accordance with the statutory provisions. In an action for reinstatement, a superior court order in favor of the employee was reversed by the District Court of Appeal of California. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, affirmed, three justices dissenting. At least where a public employee is not seeking a hearing before his employer, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits summary dismissal of that employee when he invokes the Fifth Amendment before a congressional committee in response to questions dealing with membership in the Communist Party. Nelson and Globe v. County of Los Angeles, 80 S. Ct. 527 (1960).