Supreme Court Update – A “DIG” In Fifth Amendment Case City Of Hays, Kansas V. Vogt
Back in February, I wrote on the blog about the Supreme Court oral argument in City of Hays, Kansas v. Vogt, which sought to address whether the government’s introduction of a compelled statement at a probable cause hearing violated the Fifth Amendment. Last week, the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order dismissing the case as improvidently granted (known as a “DIG”).
During Vogt’s application process for a job with the Haysville Police Department he disclosed that he had kept a knife he obtained in the position he held at the time with the Hays PD. Vogt told the Hays PD about the knife because Haysville conditioned his job offer upon the requirement that he do so, and Hays then demanded that Vogt provide more information or else he would lose his job. Vogt provided the additional information and then accepted the job with Haysville, which rescinded his offer after he was charged with a crime in connection with the information he told Hays. The state introduced Vogt’s statement to the Hays PD at his preliminary hearing, but it ultimately dropped the charges against him.
Vogt sued both Hays and Haysville, claiming that the use of his compelled statements against him in his preliminary hearing violated the Fifth Amendment. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss and the Tenth Circuit reversed.
The discussion anticipated at the February 20th oral argument would have focused on the Fifth Amendment’s use of the term “criminal case,” and whether previously held compelled statements can be introduced at various types of proceedings, including for example, preliminary hearings and suppression hearings. But the Supreme Court, however, emphasized throughout the argument that the case’s procedural posture was odd, and hinted that some information outside of the record called the truth of Vogt’s factual allegations into question. Those concerns, combined with the gravity of the constitutional issue at question, which Justice Ginsburg suggested had the potential to “shrink” the Fifth Amendment to “almost a vanishing point” since courts resolve most criminal cases without a trial, may have led the Court to dismiss the case.
The Supreme Court’s DIG means the Tenth Circuit’s finding that the Fifth Amendment applies to preliminary hearings stands, leaving open a circuit split. Additionally, the three month delay between the argument and the Court’s eventual DIG may indicate discord between the Justices on substantive Fifth Amendment issues that could eventually come to a head if another petitioner presents a more factually clear and developed petition to the Court.