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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Disqualifying an individual who has intentionally made a false statement of any material fact in his or her application for public employment


Disqualifying an individual who has intentionally made a false statement of any material fact in his or her application for public employment
United States v. Xavier Alvarez, USSC, Docket #11-310

Civil Service Law §50.4, in pertinent part, provides that “The state civil service department and municipal commissions may refuse to examine an applicant, or after examination to certify an eligible …

“(f) who has intentionally made a false statement of any material fact in his [or her] application; or

“(g) who has practiced, or attempted to practice, any deception or fraud in his [or her] application, in his examination, or in securing his [or her] eligibility or appointment….”

Are these provisions still valid in view of the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v Alverez concerning false speech that is protected by the First Amendment?

In a word, yes! 

In holding the Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. §704(b) “facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, explained: Permitting the government to decree [Alvarez's false claim that he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor] to be a criminal offense, whether shouted from the rooftops or made in a barely audible whisper, would endorse govern­ment authority to compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable. *

That governmental power, said the majority, "has no clear limiting principle. Our constitutional tradition stands against the idea that we need Oceania’s Ministry of Truth. [See G. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) (Centennial ed. 2003)]. Were this law to be sus­tained, there could be an endless list of subjects the Na­tional Government or the States could single out."

In contrast, Justice Kennedy pointed out that “Where false claims are made to effect a fraud or secure moneys or other valuable considerations, say offers of employment, it is well established that the Government may restrict speech without affronting the First Amendment,” citing Virginia Bd. of Pharmacy, 425 U. S., at 771** [emphasis supplied].

Thus it seems clear that the State Civil Service Department or a municipal civil service commission may lawfully disqualify an individual for public employment pursuant to Civil Service Law §50.4(f) and, or, §50.4(g), consistent with the due process provisions available to the applicant or employee.***.

* Justice Kennedy noted that “The statements [made by Alvarez] do not seem to have been made to secure employment or financial benefits or admission to privileges reserved for those who had earned the Medal.”

** In Virginia the Supreme Court held that “fraudulent speech generally falls outside the protections of the First Amendment.”

*** §50.4 provides that “ No person shall be disqualified pursuant to this subdivision unless he [or she] has been given a written statement of the reasons therefor and afforded an opportunity to make an explanation and to submit facts in opposition to such disqualification.

The Alvarez decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-210d4e9.pdf

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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