Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Further Update: More interesting ruminations about the Ceballos decision by Kermit Roosevelt on Balkinization.
Update: Rather than reinvent the wheel on this one, here is some insightful commentary on Garcetti v. Ceballos by Jack Balkin over at Balkinization.
The United States Supreme Court today decided the public employee free speech case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. x (U.S. May 30, 2006). You might recall that this case was scheduled for reargument in March after Justice Alito replaced Justice O'Connor on the court.
And apparently that substitution has made all the difference in this very cloe 5-4 decision, in which the court held that public employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes when they engage in speech tied to their official duties. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, while Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer all writing dissents.
Here is some early analysis from the AP:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it harder for government employees to file lawsuits claiming they were retaliated against for going public with allegations of official misconduct.
By a 5-4 vote, justices said the nation's 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government's inner-workings. New Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court's majority, said the First Amendment does not protect "every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job."
And Marty Lederman weighs in from the SCOTUSblog:
Today, the Court took that very signifiant step, holding 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." This apparently means that employees may be disciplined for their official capacity speech, without any First Amendment scrutiny, and without regard to whether it touches on matters of "public concern" -- a very significant doctrinal development.
Stay tuned for more analysis on this very important case for the First Amendment speech rights of public employees.