Bush's judicial zealots: It ain't "free speech" when you're getting paid

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 at 04:39 PM

That's literally what our esteemed Supreme Court held today, in a 5-4 decision that allows employers to take adverse actions against employees who spill the beans.

According the report of the decision at Government Executive:

"When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties," Kennedy said in his decision, "the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline."

Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined Kennedy in overturning a lower court decision on this case. The Supreme Court found that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit's earlier ruling in favor of Ceballos would have committed the judicial system to an overly intrusive role in overseeing communication among government employees.
Tuesday's ruling will "inevitably have a chilling effect on the willingness of public employees to risk their livelihood to try to improve the place where they work," [Joanne Royce, general counsel for the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group] said. "If they blow the whistle or raise issues of concern -- fraud, waste, abuse within their agencies -- they can be fired for it. They have no protection under the law."

A dissenting opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, argued speech's relation to a job should be irrelevant to its First Amendment protections.

"It is senseless to let constitutional protection for exactly the same words hinge on whether they fall within a job description," Stevens said. "Moreover, it seems perverse to fashion a new rule that provides employees with an incentive to voice their concerns publicly before talking frankly to their superiors."

Note the vote breakdown. One of many opinions favoring secrecy and the rights of the powerful over disclosure and the rights of the people, brought to you by the zealots of George W. Bush.