The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that government employees who speak out aren’t always protected by the First Amendment. In the 5-4 decision in Garcetti et al. v. Ceballos, the Court ruled that government employees are not protected by the First Amendment when they speak about matters pertaining to their jobs.
The case centers around a Los Angeles deputy prosecutor, Richard Ceballos, who says he was retaliated against after making an internal complaint about “serious misrepresentations” in an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant. He says he was reassigned and denied a promotion, but an employee grievance board found that — of course — he had not been retaliated against. So off to court they went.
“We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court. . . .
Dissenting in three separate opinions were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
“The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one’s employment is quite wrong,” Justice Stevens wrote. He said the majority ruling could have the “perverse” effect of giving public employees an incentive to speak out publicly, as citizens, before talking frankly to their superiors.
And Justice Souter asserted that “private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to public health and safety can outweigh the government’s stake in the efficient implementation of policy, and when they do public employees who speak on these matters in the course of their duties should be eligible to claim First Amendment protection.” — New York Times
You hear that, whistleblowers? That’s the Supreme Court saying there’s nothing you can do if you’re retaliated against. I predict this ruling is going to cause a lot more anonymous leaks to the media, which has now become the safest way to expose government wrongdoing.