Wednesday, May 31, 2006

SCOTUS Squelches Squealers

High Court's Free-Speech Ruling Favors Government
Public Workers on Duty Not Protected
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; Page A01

The Supreme Court yesterday bolstered the government's power to discipline public employees who make charges of official misconduct, ruling that the First Amendment does not protect those who blow the whistle in the course of their official duties.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the court ruled that the Los Angeles County district attorney's office did not violate prosecutor Richard Ceballos's freedom of speech by allegedly demoting him after he wrote to supervisors charging that a sheriff's deputy had lied to get a search warrant.

Dissenters on the court, civil libertarians and public-employee unions said the ruling, which extends to all of the nation's public employees, could deter government workers from going to their bosses with evidence of corruption or ineptitude.

But, the court ruled, recognizing claims such as Ceballos's could turn bureaucratic policy disputes into federal constitutional lawsuits, disrupting public administration, clogging courts and making it hard for the government to speak with a single voice.


While I would generally prefer the law to err on the side of whistle blowers I can see the logic behind the ruling. Ceballos made one mistake and that was dissenting in writing. Normally that's something one does only if they feel strongly enough to quit or be fired over it. Otherwise you "voice your concern" in person or on the phone. But maybe my attitude has to do with the fact that I live in Texas which is at at will employment state where employers don't need a valid reason to fire anyone.