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Lefkowitz v. Turley

    Brief Fact Summary. New York statues required contractors to waive immunity or to testify concerning state contracts, that would denied contracts for five years.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. “Employees of the State do not forfeit their constitutional privilege and that they may be compelled to respond to questions about the performance of their duties but only if their answers cannot be used against them in subsequent criminal prosecutions.”

    Facts. New York state law “required public contracts to provide that if a contractor refuses to waive immunity or to testify concerning state contracts, existing contracts could be canceled and future contracts could be denied for five years. Contractors refused to answer questions that could incriminate them, and were denied the right to future contracts.”

    Issue. Whether the State can compel employees to waive their constitutional privilege.

    Held. No. The court held “immunity is required if there is to be ‘rational accommodation between the imperatives of the privilege and the legitimate demands of the government to compel citizens to testify.’”

    Discussion. “A waiver secured under threat of substantial economic sanction cannot be termed voluntary.”


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