Due Process Hearing Need Not Follow Evidentiary Rules

Captain Calvin Bankhead is a 25-year veteran of the Gary, Indiana Fire Department. In November 2001, Bankhead was selected for random drug testing. When Bankhead’s test results showed that he had consumed marijuana, the City’s Civil Service Commission demoted him, suspended him for nine months, and subjected him to additional random tests.

Bankhead challenged the Commission’s decision, arguing that the records of his drug test should not have been admitted into evidence because of a provision of the Indiana Code establishing a series of requirements before such records are admissible.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Bankhead’s discipline, ruling that evidence considered in a pre-disciplinary hearing need not meet the evidentiary requirements of the Indiana Code. As the Court explained, the requirements of due process “need not be elaborate.” The Court described a prior decision in which it held that it would “not disturb a merit board’s decision for the lack of promulgated rules of evidence as long as the hearing was full and fair, before an impartial body, and conducted in good faith.”

The Court concluded that “Bankhead was given a notice and an opportunity to respond to the Commission’s accusation that he tested positive for marijuana use. The Commission held a hearing where Bankhead had the opportunity to present his side of the story. Where a full and fair hearing was carried out, we decline to set any precedent that would require more formality in such employment proceedings.”

Bankhead v. Walker, 2006 WL 1229548 (Ind.App. 2006).

This article appears in the December 2006 issue