MAY 30, 2006
A recent Supreme Court ruling will make it harder for government whistleblowers to take legal action when they are retaliated against for going public with allegations of government misconduct.
The court was split 5-4 in Garcetti v. Ceballos, a case in which a Los Angeles prosecutor got demoted for urging his supervisors to drop a criminal case after he provided evidence of wrongdoing by the arresting officer who, among other things, lied on a search warrant affidavit.
The prosecutor, Richard Ceballos, sued the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office when he was demoted and denied a promotion in retaliation, but a trial court judge dismissed the suit and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments late last year and ruled today on the issue – whether government employees have free-speech rights that protect them while they carry out their duties. The answer is no, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the court’s majority saying that the First Amendment does not protect “every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.”
Dissenting judges said that the ruling could silence prospective whistleblowers who have evidence of government misconduct with Justice John Paul Stevens writing: “Public employees are still citizens while they are in office. 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.”
Judicial Watch has represented several whistleblowers – including an FBI agent and an immigration officer – who have been retaliated against for denouncing government wrongdoing. We will continue to do so in an effort to expose and eliminate government corruption.
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