COHEN V. HURLEY, 366 U. S. 117 (1961)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cohen v. Hurley, 366 U.S. 117 (1961)

Cohen v. Hurley

No. 84

Argued December 14 15, 1960

Decided April 24, 1961

366 U.S. 117


During a judicial inquiry in a state court into alleged professional misconduct of lawyers, petitioner, a lawyer, was called to testify and produce records before the judge in charge of the inquiry. Relying primarily on his state privilege against self-incrimination, he refused to produce the required records and to answer questions relating to his alleged professional misconduct, and he persisted in such refusal after being warned that it might result in "serious consequences" in the form of an exercise of the court's disciplinary power over attorneys practicing before it. Solely on the ground of such refusal to cooperate in the court's efforts to expose unethical practices, and without any independent proof of wrongdoing on his part, petitioner was disbarred by the state court.

Held: disciplinary action did not violate petitioner's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 366 U. S. 118-131.

(a) Disbarment of petitioner solely because of his refusal to cooperate in the court's efforts to expose unethical conduct, and without any independent evidence of wrongdoing on his part, was not arbitrary or irrational, and it did not deprive him of liberty without due process of law contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Konigsberg v. State Bar, ante, p. 366 U. S. 36; In re Anastaplo, ante, p 366 U. S. 82. Pp. 366 U. S. 123-125.

(b) A different conclusion is not required by the fact that petitioner's refusal was based on a bona fide assertion of his state privilege against self-incrimination. Pp. 366 U. S. 125-127.

(c) The Fourteenth Amendment did not give petitioner a federal constitutional right not to be required to incriminate himself in the state proceedings. Pp. 366 U. S. 127-129.

(d) The State's action does not unconstitutionally discriminate against lawyers as a class. Pp. 366 U. S. 129-131.

7 N.Y.2d 488, 166 N.E.2d 672, affirmed.

Page 366 U. S. 118

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