Supreme Court of California

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Spielbauer v. County of Santa Clara, S150402

In an action for reinstatement brought by a former deputy public defender who was investigated by his employer for deceptive court conduct, and who was terminated after he refused to answer questions regarding such conduct, an appellate court ruling in favor of plaintiff is reversed where: 1) a public employee may be compelled, by threat of job discipline, to answer questions about the employee's job performance, so long as the employee is not required, on pain of dismissal, to waive the constitutional protection against criminal use of those answers; 2) in this case, plaintiff was not ordered to choose between his constitutional rights and his job; and 3) employer was not required to seek, obtain, and confer a formal guarantee of immunity before requiring its employee to answer questions related to the investigation.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 02/09/2009
  • Published 02/09/2009


  • BAXTER, J.


  • Supreme Court of California


  • For Appellant:
  • Burnett, Burnett & Allen and Douglas B. Allen, San Jose, for Plaintiff and Appellant., Michael D. Hersh, Beverly Tucker, Rosalind D. Wolf, Robert E. Lundquist, Brenda E. Sutton-Wills and John F. Kohn, Santa Fe Springs, for California Teachers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Appellant.

  • For Appellees:
  • Ann Miller Ravel, County Counsel, Lori E. Pegg, Lead Deputy County Counsel, and Marcy L. Berkman, Deputy County Counsel, for Defendants and Respondents., Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, David Chaney, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jacob A. Appelsmith, Assistant Attorney General, Miguel A. Neri, Fiel D.Tigno and Karen Huster, Deputy Attorneys General, as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents., Raymond G. Fortner, County Counsel (Los Angeles), Lester J. Tolnai, Assistant County Counsel, and Pirjo L. Ranasinghe, Deputy County Counsel, for County of Los Angeles as Amicus on behalf of Defendants and Respondents., Kathleen M. Bales-Lange, County Counsel (Tulare), Ronald E. Rezac, Chief Deputy County Counsel, and Deanne H. Peterson, Deputy County Counsel, for California League of Cities, California State Association of Counties, California School Boards Association, Education Legal Alliance and California Public Employers Labor Relations Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents., Jan Scully, District Attorney (Sacramento) and Albert C. Locher, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney, for Sacramento County District Attorney as Amicus on behalf of Defendants and Respondents., Jones & Mayer, Martin J. Mayer, Fullerton, and Krista MacNevin, for California State Sheriffs' Association and California Police Chiefs' Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents., Carroll, Burdick & McDonough, Ronald Yank, Gary M. Messing, Gregg McLean Adam, Jason H. Jasmine and Jennifer S. Stoughton, San Francisco, for Peace Officers' Research Association of California Legal Defense Fund as Amicus on behalf of Defendants and Respondents.
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