View Full Version : Critics Say Court Ruling Leaves Whistleblowers In Fear

05-31-2006, 09:23 AM
Critics say court ruling leaves whistleblowers in fear

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Critics_say_court_ruling_leaves_whistleblowers_053 0.html

Published: Tuesday May 30, 2006

Critics today railed against a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court today that effectively bars public employees from reporting misconduct to their supervisors or within the chain of command, RAW STORY has learned.

In today's ruling, the high court determined that First Amendment protections do not apply to public employees who report government misconduct to their supervisors. The ruling does not, however, prevent them from reporting such incidents to the media.

"Open speech by a private citizen on a matter of public importance," Justice David Souter wrote in his dissent, "lies at the heart of expression subject to protection by the First Amendment."

The case, Garcetti v. Ceballos was argued before the court twice--once before and once after Justice Sandra Day O'Donnor's left the bench. On the second round, Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.

"Public employees should be encouraged to report misconduct," said Peter Eliasberg, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a friend-of-the-court filing in the case. "This opinion does the opposite and can only cause government employees who are weighing whether or not to expose wrongdoing to decide to remain silent for fear of losing their jobs."

In 2000, Richard Ceballos, a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, wrote a memo to his supervisors saying that he believed a deputy sheriff had falsified an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant in the case. His superiors decided to proceed with the prosecution. After Ceballos informed the defense counsel about his findings, he was subpoenaed to testify at a hearing to dismiss the case. The judge denied the motion and Ceballos was removed from the prosecution's team.

Ceballos was later denied a promotion, demoted to the rank of trial deputy, and transferred from Pomona to the El Monte branch of the District Attorney's office. He believed that this was out of retaliation for exercising his rights under the first amendment.