Whistle-blowing is now protected by the First Amendment
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/20/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
A new ruling by the Supreme Court states that whistle-blowers in the public sector who raise flags over corruption are protected by the First Amendment from any form of job retaliation.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the courts opinion on the case, which protects whistle-blowers from repercussions for testifying.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The June 19 ruling was a unanimous decision in favor of Edward Lane, a former Alabama community college official who says he was fired after presenting evidence at the criminal fraud trial of a state lawmaker.
In previous hearing, the lower courts ruled against Lane, stating that he was subject to reprisals because he was testifying as a college employee and not as a citizen.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in writing for the court, said that Lane's testimony was constitutionally protected because when he testified, he was speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern, regardless if he covered facts he knew as an employee.
"Speech by citizens on matters of public concern lies at the heart of the First Amendment," said Sotomayor's written court opinion. "After all, public employees do not renounce their citizenship when they accept employment, and this Court has cautioned time and again that public employers may not condition employment on the relinquishment of constitutional rights.
Lane was the director of a youth program at Central Alabama Community College in 2006 when he discovered that a state lawmaker, Sue Schmitz, was on the payroll but not showing up work. Lane then fired Schmitz despite warnings that doing so could jeopardize his own job.
Lane was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury during Schmitz's two criminal fraud trials. Lane says he was fired in retaliation after testifying at the first trial.
"The First Amendment protects all sworn statements by public employees as part of judicial proceedings-whether compelled by a subpoena or voluntary," wrote the American Civil Liberties Union. "Distinguishing voluntary and compelled testimony would disrupt the orderly operation of the American judicial system and deter witnesses from coming forward."
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