UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
July 5, 1974
HENRY A. KISSINGER, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, ET AL. 1974.CDC.162
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Fahy, Senior Circuit Judge, Leventhal and MacKinnon, Circuit Judges. MacKinnon, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE FAHY
Opinion for the court filed by Senior Circuit Judge FAHY.
Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part filed by Circuit Judge MACKINNON.
FAHY, Senior Circuit Judge:
This appeal is from a judgment of the District Court in a proceeding in which appellant unsuccessfully challenged the lawfulness of his dismissal as a temporary employee in a sensitive position in the Peace Corps, an agency in the Department of State. *fn1
Appellant moved for summary judgment, accompanying his motion with an affidavit of his own and another of his counsel. *fn2 Appellees' answered appellant's Amended and Supplemental Complaint (the complaint) and also moved for summary judgment and to strike the affidavits. *fn3 The motions of appellees were granted by the order on appeal. I.
The following facts appear to the court to have been undisputed when the motions for summary judgment were decided. Appellant's appointment in November, 1968, was designated as an "Emergency Appointment to Sensitive Position Pending Completion of Full Field Investigation." *fn4 His performance on the job was entirely satisfactory and his loyalty was not questioned. As part of a routine security investigation he had filled out Standard Form 86 when he had applied for employment. Question No. 19 on this form read:
Have you ever had a nervous breakdown or have you ever had medical treatment for a mental condition?
He answered, "No." Although he had never had a serious mental illness or nervous breakdown, he told those conducting the investigation that he had on two occasions consulted psychiatrists briefly with minor complaints related to anxiety. *fn5 On February 5, 1969, the security investigators subjected him to a humiliating and degrading interrogation dealing principally with his sex life. During this interrogation the investigators seemed to imply that appellant was maladjusted sexually based on his admission to them that he had two isolated homosexual experiences in early adolescence and that he and his wife had lived together from time to time before they were married.
About a month later the agency directed him to report to Dr. Francis Barnes, a private physician and the Peace Corps' Senior Consultant in Psychiatry. Upon advice of counsel he refused to do so. He also rescinded a release he had previously signed during the interrogation agreeing to make available to the agency confidential medical information. He offered through counsel to have the doctors he had consulted submit written reports about him for the Government psychiatrist to review. The agency rejected this offer, as well as a subsequent offer by appellant to meet with the Government psychiatrist, accompanied by his counsel and his own psychiatrist. The agency, however, insisted upon an examination by a psychiatrist selected or employed by the Government and upon access to all appellant's medical records in the possession of his psychiatrists. Appellant, deeming this an unwarranted invasion of his privacy, refused. During this period his attorney at the time stated in a letter of March 21, 1969, to the General Counsel of the agency, that an attorney in the office of the General Counsel said to appellant's attorney that the agency was considering dismissing appellant because of "alleged homosexuality -- or, in the alternative, his private sexual relations with his fiancee." *fn6
During this month of March, 1969, appellant was advised by the agency that he would be dismissed if he did not release his medical records and submit to questioning by a Government psychiatrist. Thereupon, on March 26, 1969, appellant filed his original Complaint in the District Court seeking to enjoin such action and for related relief. No injunctive relief preventing, the agency notified appellant he was to be dismissed as of April 15, 1969, because of his "refusal to cooperate" in the Peace Corps' efforts to resolve its doubts regarding his suitability for continued employment. See letter from Ruth L. Olson, Director of Personnel, to appellant. *fn7 II
The ruling of the District Court as to the reasonableness of appellant's dismissal assumes that his refusal to cooperate as requested was the actual reason for his dismissal. In so deciding the District Court disregarded the stricken affidavits of appellant and his former counsel, deeming the court to be bound by the administrative record as presented by the agency. *fn8 Nevertheless, we think the record before the District Court on the motions for summary judgment justified the assumption we attribute to the District Court.
The complaint alleges that the letter from the Director of Personnel to appellant, note 7 (supra) "falsely states that Plaintiff was discharged because of his 'refusal to cooperate'" in the security investigation and that appellees had no just and proper cause to discharge him, the reason given being a subterfuge. The complaint did not assert any other basis for the dismissal. Appellant's only allegations were to the effect that the facts demonstrated that he did cooperate to the extent that could be required consistently with his right of privacy. Moreover, in his affidavit accompanying his motion for summary judgment appellant alleges only that it was unfair and untrue to characterize him as uncooperative. *fn9
When his complaint was prepared and filed the record which had been presented to the District Court by the agency *fn10 contained the letter of appellant's former counsel of March 21, 1969, to the General Counsel of the Peace Corps, asserting that "Mr. Grove," who was in the office of the General Counsel, "stated unequivocally that the reason for [appellant's] pending discharge was alleged homosexuality -- or, in the alternative, his private sexual relations with his fiancee.. " The record also contained the General Counsel's response of March 25, 1969, stating, "First, Mr. Grove has assured me that at no time did he state to you 'unequivocally that the reason for [appellant's] pending discharge was alleged homosexuality -- or in the alternative, his private sexual relations with his fiancee.' . . . Although Mr. Grove may have indicated that a question had been raised as to [appellant's] sexual behavior, he did not state that that behavior would form the basis for any administrative action concerning [appellant]." The letter also stated:
I would like once again to make the point that I made when we met on March 20 and at the beginning of this letter. The Peace Corps has no wish to discharge [appellant]. On the contrary, we have every hope that, with his assistance, the question which has arisen concerning his suitability can be resolved satisfactorily and his employment can be continued. It was because of our desire to be fair to [appellant] and, if possible, to retain his services, that an explanation of our concern was offered rather than merely terminating his appointment without explanation.
With the foregoing correspondence a part of the record, the complaint nevertheless proceeded solely upon the theory that appellant's dismissal for "[refusing] to cooperate" lacked support. The stricken affidavit of appellant's former counsel, though under oath of course, adds nothing to the relevant factual situation which was in the record before the court. It merely repeats what is reflected in the correspondence above outlined. *fn11
Since the complaint itself places no reliance upon the sexual conduct of appellant as the basis for his dismissal, although the data with respect to that possibility was in the record filed by appellees, there was no necessity for the District Court to consider whether such conduct influenced the agency's decision to discharge appellant. *fn12 Appellant's refusal to cooperate was well supported as the basis upon which the agency stated its reason for the dismissal. In addition to the sequence of events which immediately preceded the dismissal, namely, the explicit warning, and the forewarned dismissal three weeks later, the concluding paragraph of the General Counsel's letter of March 25, 1969, expressed the hope that the question of "suitability can be resolved satisfactorily and his employment can be continued."
Moreover, the letter of Ms. Olson accompanying the dismissal action states its purpose to be "to correct the allegations regarding our grounds for your separation found in your [original] complaint recently filed . . .," namely, that he would be dismissed unless he waived his constitutional rights by consenting to further interrogation and by waiving his physician-patient privilege. The Olson letter carefully sought to justify the need for further information by explaining:
It is our obligation to resolve any doubts regarding the suitability for continued employment of Peace Corps personnel and we are unable to do so in your case because of your refusal to cooperate in this effort. . . .
The most that can be said for the sexual aspect of the matter, in the limited scope of appellant's challenge to his dismissal, is that it bore upon the agency's reason for desiring further cooperation with respect to appellant's psychiatric examination, rather than constituting a reason for his dismissal. As to the latter, we think no genuine issue of material fact barred summary judgment for appellees under the law applicable to the position, to which we now turn. III
It appears that the only protection his position afforded him is to be found in the Constitution, since neither statute *fn13 nor regulation *fn14 helps him. This contrasts with the situation recently considered by the Supreme Court in Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134, 94 S. Ct. 1633, 40 L. Ed. 2d 15 (1974). In the course of the several opinions in that case it is pointed out that one in a temporary position -- or pending completion of investigation -- is protected only by due process of law from patently arbitrary or discriminatory dismissal. He has that much protection because of the property interest incident to his position, even though it is of a probationary or non-tenured character. Thus, Mr. Justice White stated that while Congress may limit the total discretion of the Executive in dismissing an employee by providing, for example, that it must be for cause, and thus entitle the employee to a hearing, where the Executive's discretion is not so limited a hearing is not required. Arnett v. Kennedy (supra) 416 U.S. at 181. The Court so held in Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1230, 81 S. Ct. 1743 (1961). Nevertheless, "constitutional protection does extend to the public servant whose exclusion pursuant to a statute is patently arbitrary or discriminatory." Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183, 192, 97 L. Ed. 216, 73 S. Ct. 215 (1952); accord, Arnett v. Kennedy (supra) 416 U.S. at . . . 183 (White, J., concurring in part, dissenting in part); Slochower v. Board of Education, 350 U.S. 551, 556, 100 L. Ed. 692, 76 S. Ct. 637 (1956).
The question is whether the reason assigned by the agency for appellant's dismissal -- the "refusal to cooperate" -- was patently arbitrary. We think not. Undisputed facts furnished a reasonable basis for the agency to explore further the emotional stability of appellant for the sensitive position involved. In so viewing the matter, however, we do not decide that appellant was not qualified for continued employment. Our holding is quite limited: it is simply that the agency was within its rights to inquire further with respect to his emotional stability as an element of his qualifications for the sensitive position. We do not say that appellant's answer to question 19 on Standard Form 86 was false, as the District Court put it (note 12, supra). Whether his visit to the psychiatrist for a temporary anxiety is "medical treatment for a mental condition" is arguable, and if anything the emanations of Bronston v. United States, 409 U.S. 352, 34 L. Ed. 2d 568, 93 S. Ct. 595 (1973), suggest it might not have served as a basis for a false statement prosecution. But his admitted resort to psychiatric counseling, even though limited, furnished reasonable ground, without infringing his constitutional right to privacy, see Gayer v. Schlesinger, 160 U.S. App. D.C. 172, 490 F.2d 740, 750 (1973), for the agency to seek the requested cooperation in order to obtain additional relevant information. We agree with the ruling of the District Court "that his discharge for refusal to cooperate was reasonable. . . ." The method of inquiry proposed by the agency, moreover, was not so unreasonable as to result in a deprivation of appellant's property interest inconsistently with the Fifth Amendment. The agency would have been well advised in our opinion to have accepted one of the compromises proposed by appellant, without necessarily binding itself to its result, but our disagreement with the agency in this respect does not mount to constitutional significance.
We have been concerned about the proper judgment to be entered in this case. While the Government was entitled to summary judgment, there is at least one aspect in which the judgment entered by the District Court incorporates a premise of false answer which we do not think should be established as a court's determination, and to avoid all possible questions about conclusiveness and finality, we think it appropriate in the interest of justice, 28 U.S.C. § 2106, to vacate the judgment and remand so that the court may re-enter a judgment on a basis which does not rest in part on a finding that appellant's answer was false. *fn15
It is so ordered.
MACKINNON, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
I concur in much of the foregoing opinion but would not go so far as to suggest that the agency should have accepted one of the compromises proposed by appellant. To my mind he was poorly advised by his counsel to refuse the request of the agency for an examination by the Peace Corps' psychiatrist and for available medical data. When he refused the request for the information, which he had a right to do, he forfeited any right he had to retain his job. The request of the agency was clearly within its power and the circumstances required it to request such additional investigation and information. His answer to the question was sufficiently false to warrant further investigation. That it might not justify a conviction for perjury under Bronston v. United States, 409 U.S. 352, 34 L. Ed. 2d 568, 93 S. Ct. 595 (1973), is beside the point. This is not a perjury case. It is not even a criminal case. It is merely an effort by an agency of the United States to carry out its duty and obligation to staff its positions with competent, reliable people. I would affirm the judgment of the trial court.