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Case: Steffan v. Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense (1989, DC) (App.


Facts: Steffan was in the naval academy, and was discharged when he admitted he
was a homosexual. He brought this suit seeking equitable remedies; one of which is
that he be reinstated. D's requested, that during deposition of the P, he answer
whether or not he engaged in homosexual conduct while he was at the academy. If
he did engage in homosexual conduct, that would be a valid reason to discharge
him, b/c it is illegal to commit sodomy in military setting. P refused to answer,
alleging :
(1) that it is not relevant to the case
i. P argues that during the trial when they discharged his from
service, evidence of homosexual conduct, or questions about it were never brought
up. His discharge was based solely on his assertion that he was homosexual.
ii. Additionally, D's answer does not state a defense that P is not
entitled to the relief sought, b/c he engaged in homosexual conduct.
(2) That it violates the 5th amendment.
i. Says that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against
himself, and b/c sodomy in military is illegal, he would be criminalizing himself.

Issue: Whether the deposition is relevant, and also whether it violates the 5th

Holding: This court dismissed that case, b/c P would not answer questions
regarding homosexual conduct while at the academy.

Reasoning: Court says that it is relevant and central to the claim, the question
of whether or not he had engaged in homosexual conduct. It is because he is
seeking an equitable remedy, i.e. reinstatement into the naval academy, and so it
is necessary to find out if he committed an illegal act before they can reinstate
him. Also, Court gave P warning that if he didn’t answer the questions, his case
would be dismissed.


Case: Steffan v. Cheney (1990, DC) (App. 74-77)

Facts: See above. This is now on appeal in the circuit court (previously
district court). Steffan is appealing the dismissal for failure to comply with
the discovery order (Rule 37(b)).

Issue: Whether the district court erred in dismissing the case. -Yes.

Holding: Reversed.

Reasoning: Judicial review of administrative action is confined to the grounds on

which the record discloses that the action was based. The action here was based on
his statement that he was a homosexual, so it doesn’t put into question whether or
not he engaged in homosexual conduct, unless that conduct was the basis for his
discharge, which it was not. If he was discharged wrongfully, then in the eyes of
the law, he still remains in service.

• Quality of justice low in discovery b/c rarely subject to appellate review.
○ This is b/c most cases settle
○ You cant appeal a discovery order until the end of the case
§ If you do, then your asking appellate to reverse based on a discovery
○ This one happened b/c case was dismissed b/c of the discovery issue, so it
went directly to court of appeals
• Court of appeals
○ Says its not relevant to the legal issue
○ They didn’t discharge him on that issue
○ If they do find facts that show that they did discharge rightly, when they
actually wrongfully did, they are benefiting from their own wrong. This is not