Friday, June 02, 2006

Muzzling Government Whistleblowers

From the Alliance for Justice:

For the nation's 21 million government workers, yesterday was not a particularly good day. In an opinion authored by Justice Kennedy and joined by the rest of the emerging conservative bloc (Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia), the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the First Amendment offers no protection against retaliation to public employees who, in the course of their duties, blow the whistle on waste, fraud or corruption. Public auditors fired after discovering and disclosing the embezzlement of municipal funds? Police officers demoted after reporting illicit activities by public officials? County engineers terminated after revealing that contractors' work wasn't up to snuff? None of them enjoy constitutional protection any longer. Nor do any other government workers in a dizzying array of whistleblower scenarios.

The decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos was the first where Justice Alito cast the deciding vote. The decisiveness of that vote, and the possibility that the result might have been different if Justice O'Connor were still around, is underscored by the fact that the case had to be re-argued following Justice Alito's ascension to the Court. Re-argument was presumably necessary only because, after Justice O'Connor's departure, Justice Alito was needed to break a 4-4 tie. Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer each wrote dissents. Justices Ginsburg and Stevens joined in Justice Souter's opinion.
Alliance for Justice is a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations. Since its inception in 1979, the Alliance has worked to strengthen the public interest community's ability to influence public policy and foster the next generation of advocates, by:

monitoring and investigating judicial nominations at all levels of the federal branch; encouraging public participation in the confirmation process; raising public awareness about the significant impact the federal judiciary has on the country; strengthening the capacity of the public interest community to influence public policy; assisting nonprofits through technical assistance, workshops, tools and information; increasing foundation support to organizations that seek to influence policy and public opinion through workshops, examples of documents, and technical assistance; and annually, during the opening of the Supreme Court's session, uniting student activists on college, university, and law school campuses nationwide.

Quote of the Day:

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

--Justice William O. Douglas

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