Saturday, June 03, 2006

It Doesn't Matter If We Have Nine Scalias, Eh?

It wasn't the new Supreme Court's first scary act, but this one will be felt for a while: earlier in the week it struck down a large chunk of the government employee whistleblower protections in this country, meaning people who see malfeasance can now more easily be fired for reporting it. Republicans love this sort of thing, because they think a "good government" means greedy officials should be allowed to do whatever they want however they want. That's why Samuel Alito is on the bench. And he came through for them big time, casting the deciding vote in the 5-4 decision.

An excerpt:

The Supreme Court [. . .] ruled that "when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens" protected by constitutional guarantees.

Government employers "need a significant degree of control over their employee's words and actions; without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services," the court said in its decision.
Not very comforting. I have no idea where they find this in the Constitution, and I suspect it was one of those jury-rigged arguments to get the desired result without having an obvious clause to rely on.

This case was actually heard in October, when O'Connor was still a reasonably moderate voice on the Court, but had to be reopened to allow Alito to cast his vote for procedural reasons that are obscure to me. The good news for me is that this means more complaints will now go to the media rather than the chain of command, since the ruling only covers employees discussing their work in an official capacity. When the weekend rolls around, you're a private citizen free to blow off all the steam you want. I win, the inspector general loses.


Blogger charvakan said...

Since I have made a variant of the "nine Scalias" quote, and since I am a Federal government employee, I feel I should respond. I actually agree with this decision. It does not touch whistleblower laws. What it does is remove the First Amendment as an objection to government action in response to things we say on the job to other employees about work matters. Adverse actions can still be fought be grievance, by appeal to higher management or OPM, or by filing a whistleblower lawsuit. It is not clear to me at all that the First Amendment should apply. No one is being jailed, and as you say, one's off-job comments are not affected. What the Government does in such cases may be bad management, or grievable, or even illegal according to employment law or the whistleblower statutes, but it does not seem to violate the Constitutional right to freedom of speech.

9:32 AM  
Blogger nolo said...

The opinion hasn't struck me as very controversial either.

4:42 PM  

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