Gardner v. Broderick--Clarifying Garrity

In the course of every decision handed down from the Supreme Court, other cases come along that are used to clarify the previous decision. Such is Gardner v. Broderick. The Gardner case centered on the investigation of alleged bribery of police officers in the City of New York.

Gardner was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to testify about his performance of official duties. Gardner was told that he had Fifth Amendment privileges. However, he was given a "waiver of immunity" and told he would be fired if he did not sign the waiver. Gardner would not sign the waiver. Later he was taken to an administrative hearing and was fired for refusing to testify before the grand jury.

Gardner appealed the dismissal to the New York Supreme Court. The court refused to reinstate him to his former duties and back pay as he requested. Gardner's argument was that he was terminated as a result of refusing to waive his Fifth Amendment privilege.

The case was taken before the United States Supreme Court. The court decided to look at whether the Fifth Amendment provided a right not to answer questions that will put the officer in peril of self-incrimination, without the guarantee of immunity. The court answered this question by deciding that answers to questions may be compelled if immunity is granted from federal and state prosecution in a criminal trial. In this case the court also looked at the fact that the officer refused to answer and was dismissed from his position with the New York Police Department for that refusal.

The court noted that after Gardner was dismissed, the Garrity decision came down. Stating the following:

"About a year and a half after New York City discharged petitioner for his refusal to waive this immunity, we decided Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). In that case, we held that when a policeman had been compelled to testify by the threat that otherwise he would be removed from office, the testimony that he gave could not be used against him in a subsequent prosecution. Garrity had not signed a waiver of immunity and no immunity statute was applicable in the circumstances. [392 U.S. 273, 277] Our holding was summarized in the following statement (at 500):
"We now hold the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under threat of removal from office, and that it extends to all, whether they are policemen or other members of our body politic." (Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967)

The New York Court of Appeals did not consider the Garrity decision to apply in the case. While it believed that Garrity applied to the use of compelled testimony, it did not apply when the state discharged an officer for waiving a constitutional right that is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court disagreed, saying that had the officer refused to answer questions that were specifically, directly, and narrowly relating to his official without waiving his immunity, and having been given a Garrity warning, there would not be a significant issue with his subsequent dismissal. But he was brought to a grand jury to answer questions about criminal misconduct. The officer refused to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment. The New York City Police Department dismissed him for this, not taking into consideration the Garrity decision.

The Gardner decision reinforced Garrity as delineated in the decision. The court went on to say, "It is clear that petitioner's testimony was demanded before the grand jury in part so that it might be used to prosecute him, and not solely for the purpose of securing an accounting of his performance of his public trust. If the latter had been the only purpose, there would have been no reason to seek to compel petitioner to waive his immunity." (Gardner v. Broderick)

The case was overturned to the favor of Gardner. This furthered the importance of immunity being afforded by the previous Garrity decision. We must abide by these decisions and incorporate them into policy and procedure.