Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

High Court Trims Whistleblower Rights 718

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the dark-times-ahead dept.
iminplaya writes "In yet another blow against free speech rights, the Supreme Court decided that government employees who report wrongdoing do not enjoy 1st Amendment rights while on the job. From the article 'The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote [...] The ruling was perhaps the clearest sign yet of the Supreme Court's shift with the departure of moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the arrival of Alito. [...] Stephen Kohn, chairman of the National Whistleblower Center, said: "The ruling is a victory for every crooked politician in the United States."'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

High Court Trims Whistleblower Rights

Comments Filter:
  • Unfortunate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:47PM (#15433130)
    Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

    If TJ was brought to the future, he'd hate the government as it stands in this point in time, but then again, he'd hate alot of other things with the government now too, like how damned big it is.
    • by stubear (130454) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:51PM (#15433149)
      I'm guessing he wouldn't be all that crazy about being called TJ either.
    • by abscissa (136568) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:58PM (#15433173)
      Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

      Please, what a lot of fearmongering and nonsense. Communist governments spend vast sums of nonexistant money, they tend to create an elite "politburo" class of elite rich while everyone else remains poor, they begin wars and conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't have and couldn't afford, and they promote lies in schools [sfgate.com] that run contrary to science and evidence.

      Now tell me, HOW is America becoming to a pseudo-communist form of government??
      • Someone mod parent +1 funny!. My points expired :(
        • I would mod him up except I already posted here :(

          As for a response to all of that; since the whole post was apparently a clump of sarcasm, I wont bother replying since it's all laid out in front of people. However, I'd love to see someone respond anyway.
      • by Just Another Poster (894286) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:59AM (#15433539)
        Please, what a lot of fearmongering and nonsense. Communist governments spend vast sums of nonexistant money, they tend to create an elite "politburo" class of elite rich while everyone else remains poor,

        By comparing the savage inequalities of power and wealth in communist nations such as Cuba and North Korea with "income inequality" non-issues of freer nations, I can only conclude that you're mentally ill.

        they begin wars and conquor countries to control resources they otherwise wouldn't have and couldn't afford,

        Iraq sure doesn't look very "conquored" to me.

        Where's all the oil we have supposedly "stolen"?

      • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Informative)

        by Profound (50789) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:04AM (#15433995) Homepage
        Instead of Communist, I think you mean totalitarian [wikipedia.org]. Back during the cold war it suited the US govt for people to think of the two as the same, so it's not suprising you are confused.

        Communism is an economic theory, the people currently running the US have opposite beliefs.
    • From the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

      Fascism is a radical authoritarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

      I think that this describes the current political situation in the USA pretty well.
      • fascism - A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

        1. We're not a dictatorship
        2. Bush certainly isn't forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism
        3. We're a capitalist society. The government doesn't control industry.
        4. Nationalism isn't necessarily bad, unless it goes to extremes, which we haven't
        5. I haven't seen any signs of racism in
        • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:06PM (#15436762) Homepage
          1. We're not a dictatorship

          Define "dictatorship". 700 "signing statements" in which the president says he's above the law pretty much seals that definition in my book.

          2. Bush certainly isn't forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism

          Unless you consider "free speech zones". Or covert republican operatives posing as reporters in the White House press pool.

          3. We're a capitalist society. The government doesn't control industry.

          No, it only invades countries as an excuse to subsidize industry.

          4. Nationalism isn't necessarily bad, unless it goes to extremes, which we haven't

          Define "extreme". (I would argue that the word is poorly used in your sentance, and seems aimed towards making the entire statement non-declarative, because the meaning of the statement depends on one's individual definition of what is or is not extreme. - it belies an underlying attitude of intention to deter actual debate - it smells like an attempt to assert an indisputable non-fact).

          5. I haven't seen any signs of racism in the current administration

          Just because they have a couple of colored people on staff, does not mean that racism is not enshrined in policy.
          1. Bush claims he is not bound by any laws. The Attorney General agrees with him. How would *you* define dictatorship?
          2. "free speech zones", reprisals/threats [washingtonpost.com]against people not toeing the party line. Sure sounds like he's suppressing things.
          3. Industry controls government, which is even worse.
          4. Invading other countries, citizens with guns at the borders, mainstream [liberalavenger.com] conservative [anncoulter.com] pundits [mediamatters.org] allying themselves with white supremacist groups and repeating their talking points. If that's not extreme, you're certainly
    • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason1729 (561790) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:00AM (#15433180)
      You have no idea what the word "communist" means. Why don't you go look it up?

      The US is moving towards a police state, which China, to a large degree, already is. The US is more capitalistc than ever (capitalism is the opposite of communism).
      • police state is about the measure of it.
        • Re:mod parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ooze (307871) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:09AM (#15433397)
          Wrong. Since police state is also about the measure of fascism ... which is defined by the nationalistic intermingling of corporate business and the rich elite and the gouvernment with a strong reliance on and glorification of the military. And fighting against this is pretty much the premise of communism, long before even the word fascism existed.
          That all so called communist states where police states too is pretty much a result of "to fight a monster, you have to become one". This is no excuse of course, but rather a sign that they were't really communist in the first place.
          And oh ... if you are short of examples of fascist states in the last 100 years: Mussolini Italy, Hitler Germany, Franco Spain, Pinochet Chile, Peron Argentinia, Bush America. No shortage of that, and also no shortage of atrocities committed there.
          • Re:mod parent up! (Score:3, Informative)

            by will_die (586523)
            Lets look at your definition.
            nationalistic intermingling of corporate business and the rich elite and the gouvernmentCongradulations you also just defined communism, except fascism had not problems with various classes in of people. However that is a very poor understanding of both communism and fascism.

            a strong reliance on and glorification of the military not needed for a facist state. Besides look at China or the USSR both big into glorification of the military.
            A far better and more exact definit
      • You have no idea what the word "communist" means. Why don't you go look it up?

        Read my post again next time :P

        It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(
      • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:08AM (#15433394)
        Yeah, but China's not communist, either. Last time I checked, the workers didn't own the means of production over there, which pretty much rules out it being communist. It's easy: ask, does the Chinese factory worker have a boss, other than a democratically elected shop manager? If the answer is yes, then it's not a communist state, QED. Whatever labels they put on the owners' doors are irrelevant, whether it's CEO or Chairman or Premier of the Supreme Soviet.
          This is an illustration of how any attempt to bring a top-down reshaping of society via a powerful engine of state is doomed right from the start.
          To sum it up, I submit three great American proverbs: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." and my favorite, "Authoritarian Marxists = teh dumb."

          I think the best label for China would be "Gangsterocracy."
        It's descriptive, accurate, and fun to say!
      • Feudalism (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:28AM (#15433597) Homepage
        A capitalist society that embrace large companies and monopolies (with ever stronger "IP" laws) and weakened anti-trust laws is moving towards a kind of feudalism.

        EU is actually moving (incredibly slowly, and with many backslashes) the opposite direction, from a feudal economy dominated by national monopolies and trust, into a competitive European market backed by strong anti-trust legislation.
        • Re:Feudalism (Score:3, Interesting)

          EU is actually moving [...] from a feudal economy [...] into a competitive European market

          You still believe in the Easter bunny, don't you?

          (this German here wonders)

          I'd say the exact opposite. Government regulations get ever more helpful for Big Enterprise, while the smaller players suffer more and more under the extensive regulations.
        • Re:Feudalism (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bri2000 (931484) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @06:14AM (#15434148)
          We were, perhaps, in the 80s and early 90s - which were the glory days of the EU competition (anti-trust, if you must) directorate attacking state monopolies and imposing (and enforcing) serious fines against member states for illegal state aid. I would argue that, post Maastricht and the eastern enlargement, the priority shifted towards a "social" Europe (whatever that is supposed to mean) with competition and free movement of goods taking a back seat (notwithstanding that these elements of the Treaty of Rome, and their enforcment, were, I believe, the EU's most important contribution to Europe's post-war posterity).

          As the recent events in France show, the European population still believe the state is obliged to take care of them and no European politicians have the guts to stand up and explain that this simply is not possible.

    • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jmv (93421) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:22AM (#15433259) Homepage
      Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays?

      Yes.

      It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

      No, the thing is that China is becoming more and more capitalistic (despite the communist talk), while the US is becoming more and more repressive. Therefore both are becoming capitalistic, repressive regimes.
    • Re:Unfortunate (Score:3, Informative)

      by GreatBunzinni (642500)

      Are China and the US becoming more and more like eachother nowadays? It's like this country is moving to a pseudo-communist form of government :(

      There's a little missconception on your comment. Communism is a political ideology which basis itself on economic and social issues, much like capitalism. When we talk about government organization and structure, communist countries have generally opted for the totalitarian and authoritarian forms of government. According to the more recent news, what the US

    • Re:Unfortunate (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Catbeller (118204)
      The opposite of democracy is not communism. That's a meme pumped into our heads from 50 years of war with Russia. The opposite of democracy is totalitarianism, which is pretty much what Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales have built with the help of their wonderful new Supreme Court justices.

      We'd like to take a moment to thank the Democratic Party for knuckling under and refusing to fillibuster the nominees which have now shut down a citizen's right to report a crime. As Justice Steven says, there is no difference
  • you see? (Score:5, Funny)

    by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:47PM (#15433131) Journal
    Democracy works!
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:47PM (#15433132)
    Bit by bit, it seems, that America is changing into something quite different than I was taught in school. Like the supreme court ruling that allows local governments to sieze your land for a better purpose as just one of many examples.

    Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles? That principles meant something to this country?
    • by kfg (145172)
      Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles?

      Yes.

      To the Person Sitting in Darkness - Mark Twain [virginia.edu]

      KFG
    • by spirality (188417) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:58PM (#15433172) Homepage
      Funny thing about the eminent domain rulings, in particular the New London case. The conservatives, i.e. Scalia and Thomas oppossed the ruling, but Ginsberg and the liberal cliche, including O'Conner, I believe, supported it. Exactly the opposite of this decision.

      On the surface this ruling might seem bad too, but I'm not so sure. From what I read it means that government employees can be fired for what they say at work. Just like me in my private sector job. This seems like a no brainer to me.
      • by Vengie (533896) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:39AM (#15433311)
        Read Kyllo. (Not Kelo, which is the New London case you cited) Then get back to me when you understand what "conservative" and "liberal" mean in the supreme court context. Fourth and Fifth amendment law are good examples of where everything you know about "conservative" and "liberal" get shot to hell. (More or less: Scalia generally votes to free the felon, Ginsburg generally votes to lock them up.)

        There is nothing at all "funny" about the eminent domain rulings if you understand where the "conservative" moniker comes from.


        For 200 years, "social" and "constitutional" conservatives were basically one and the same. This stopped being the case 50 or so years ago, and has only grown profoundly since Reagan. This is not a "no brainer" and one of the dissents hits the nail on the head: A teacher protesting hiring decisions in a school would be protected, but a school HR employee protesting the same decisions would not be.

    • by btarval (874919) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:59AM (#15433372)
      Saw this quote posted over at a certain other site, and it's the best synopsis of what we're doing to ourselves (Credit goes to technopundit there):

      "We're legislating ourselves into becoming a third world nation."

      Sadly, this applies far beyond this particular case, or even the original discussion on chemistry discussion at the other site.

    • Was it just that I was young and naive and believed in a good country that stuck to its principles?

      Yes, because you assumed the principles believed in were the ones they said they did. Americans don't really believe in freedom pe se, not past the freedom to shop at Wal-Mart and watch TV. Well, and go to church and talk about Jesus. Freedom cannot and will not survive in a population that just doesn't care about it. Now, when Clinton was in office, a lot of people were writing pretty good stuff abou

      • Yes, because you assumed the principles believed in were the ones they said they did.

        I think this is exactly right. Things aren't so much different than they were 20, 30, or even 50 years ago now. The fundemental failing of this administration is their inability to hide it. Their mistakes, miscues, and lame attempts at misdirection have been so poorly managed that the corruption inherent in the system is now obvious. And it is so obvious that the "government" has lost even plausible deniability.

  • by packetmon (977047) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:50PM (#15433144) Homepage
    This country has been pushing out some of the strangest laws. Did the justices consider their ruling is likely to make someone think before reporting corruption. First it was the Bush administrations illegal wiretaps via the NSA, even though its not necessarily new news, now this. So what the current government has is a one two punch... If a whisteblower wants to report possible illegal activity, they may face the wraith of being tracked by the NSA, then the wrath of a justice system that's catering to criminals...
  • The real shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sxltrex (198448) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:52PM (#15433152)
    The real shame of the Bush regime isn't all the crap he's pulled during his presidency. The real shame, as demonstrated by this latest attack on our "inalienable rights, " is that it's going to take us at least 20 years to undo the damage. I still can't believe we had the opportunity to say goodbye after the first four years but brought him back for four more.
    • Re:The real shame (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:20AM (#15433430) Homepage Journal
      I still can't believe we had the opportunity to say goodbye after the first four years but brought him back for four more.

      I'm a two time Bush voter. Even with his shorcomings(and he does have many), the other candidate in the general election was even more unpalatable to me.

      LK
      • It's always refreshing to see someone who blatantly admits that money is much more important than human rights, free speech and privacy.
      • Re:The real shame (Score:3, Informative)

        by aussie_a (778472)
        the other candidate in the general election was even more unpalatable to me.

        You should write to whoever deals with your ballots to let them know there was an error on your sheet that made it so only two candidates appeared.
    • Tell this to 40,000 iraqi civilians, and uncounted number of iraqi soldiers that were killed as a result of his actions. Tell this to 2700 american and coalition soldiers dead, to 1000 dead in New Orleans, and to the families of those who died.

      Some of the "crap he's pulled" can not be undone, not even in 20 years. Please don't underestimate Bush's crap, even with the damage to the "inalienable rights".

      I sometimes wonder "how they sleep at night". Is it easy to tell yourself that the thousands of people kill
      • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:01AM (#15433687)
        I agree completely. This is one of the darkest periods of American history, probably the darkest since Jim Crow. We have the President waffling on the definition of torture, claiming the authority to imprison an American citizen indefinitely without charges, claiming the authority to nullify any law he wants, repudiating the separation of powers/checks and balances system, etc. We have secret US-run prisons scattered around the world, into which people are "disappeared" off the street, tortured, and even if they are released later, no raparations are made of any kind. We have the declaration of permanent war (but without the declaration of war demanded by the Constitution), the suspension of the rule of law, and once again, a government (and largely a population) that is condoning what would obviously be called torture if we weren't the ones doing it. We won't just "bounce back" from this like we might repair the economy, and even that is looking doubtful with the skyrocketing national debt. This is pretty damned horrible.

        And no, I'm not blaming Bush exclusively--he's just one man. The Americans as a whole let this crap happen because they're too freaking stupid to realize that an omnipotent government isn't a safe thing to have. They're too caught up in the fist-pumping "kick-ass!" feeling they get from watching Fox news that they're just pouring our hard-won freedom down the drain. I don't think what drove them to this was 100% fear--people weren't scared so much as pissed off that anyone would have the nerve to do this to us. Considering we have the attention span of gnats and the analytic ability of same, I'm not surprised that we attacked the wrong freaking country and got ourselves eyeballs-deep into this. We're making MORE terrorists, not fewer. Christ!

        Even aside from gutting civil liberties, abandoning the rule of law, the balkanization of public discourse, sanctioning and practice of torture, a skyrocketing national debt, we're making the terrorism situation worse! It's making sense why Iran endorsed President Bush in his re-election campaign. By destabilizing the entire region he has helped the Islamicists. Taliban for everyone! Wonderful. I'm so proud.

  • Misconduct (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mantrid42 (972953) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:53PM (#15433156)
    So... wait... if your superior is doing something wrong, you aren't allowed to talk about it? The Supreme Court just broke my mind.
  • by spirality (188417) on Tuesday May 30, 2006 @11:53PM (#15433157) Homepage
    You would think it was the end of the world by the headline. From what I understood of the article government employees should behave like private sector employees. That is, if I shoot my mouth off at work I might get fired. This seems like a no brainer. The speech seems to directly relate to what is said at work, not what is said in public about work. Big difference.

    The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.
    • There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.

      There are a whole bunch of other laws that say what kind of action can and cannot be taken, however.

      The quote from the article is:

      The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.

      This is the beginning of the situation where a whole society sees a terrible wrongness and no one will say a word because they are terrified of reprisal. E

      • The quote from the article is:

        The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday.

        Yes, that is the quote from the article. The article is only very loosely connected to the actual ruling.

        It's a newspaper. If you have ever read a newspaper article on a subject you are intimately familiar with, you would have found that they got most of the major facts wrong. The thing is, they do this to every story. Newspapers are just hopelessly inaccura

    • The thing about free speech is this. Your words have consequences, which might include you losing your job. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not taking action against you because of your words.

      Sure, and think about it, your words have consequences, which might include you being jailed. There is no first amendment guarantee to others not jailing you because of your words.
    • Umm.. err. Do you really think the government is just another corporation? This is the fatal flaw that you seem to completely miss. I seem to recall the phrase "of the people, by the people" somewhere when referring to democracy. This ruling could, and probbably will silence very important people who work for the government like say scientists who work for the FDA, anyone who studies global warming, etc. It's kind of scary that you think the government should just shut people up that work for them whe
  • Freedom of speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:00AM (#15433178) Journal
    You can say whatever you like, unless the government really, really doesn't want you to say it.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:01AM (#15433183)
    From the article, stripping away the spin and leaving in what Kennedy actually said:


    "We reject, however, the notion that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties," Kennedy said. ....
    Kennedy said if the superiors thought the memo was inflammatory, they had the authority to punish him.

    "Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees' official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer's mission," Kennedy wrote. .....
    Kennedy said that government workers "retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse." They do not, Kennedy said, have "a right to perform their jobs however they see fit."


    Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos with no ability to be fired? I thought it was already enough of a joke that if you worked for the government you were in for life. Do we not want government employees to be accountable for what they say if it is false?

    Speech will still be protected if it is truly whistleblowing, and not just bitching.
    • Should government workers really be able to pass around accusatory memos...?

      Unless I'm mistaken, I thought we already had laws to prevent slander in the first place. The problem isn't that we don't laws already in place for issues such as this; the problem is that they aren't enforced.

      Gee, sounds like the whole immigration issue in regards to enforcing existing laws. I'm starting to see a trend here...
    • by Vengie (533896) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:51AM (#15433352)
      Read the opinion -- the entire opinon. The motion to suppress was denied on /other/ grounds. The warrant was facially invalid for the reasons he cited in his memo. The judge (in what some would call "judicial activism") denied the suppression motion based on other evidence in the record NOT in the warrant affidavit.

      Basically, he blew the whistle that the government was using illegal tactics to catch a bad guy. The trial judge threw out the whistleblower by looking at the bad guy and saying "yeah, he's bad, so whatever." At the end of the day, this wasn't an accusatory memo. The majority glosses over the facts because they need to use the rhetoric. One of O'Connor's "totality of the circumstances" eleven pronged tests would have helped nicely here.
  • Congress (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:06AM (#15433196) Homepage
    Congress, should it desire to do so, can pass legislation to protect government employees from retaliation for job-related speech that serves an important purpose.

    The idea that the first amendment allows government employees to speak without fear of discipline or termination is a huge stretch.

    • Re:Congress (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mark-t (151149)
      In what way does it make any sense that an employee who has _legitimately_ reported the wrongdoings of his boss be fired for his trouble without even an iota of protection? All this will do is allow people that are doing something wrong to get away with it for a lot longer as employees stay hushed up for fear of losing their jobs.

      I understand that they brought this about to try and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits, but this is really throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater here.

  • by vijayiyer (728590) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:06AM (#15433198)
    The 1st amendment is a restriction preventing laws from being enacted which prevent freedom of speech. It does not, however, grant anybody a right to keep their jobs. It just means you won't be arrested after you're shown the door. The court ruling seems like common sense to me. It doesn't stop anybody from whistleblowing - but don't count on keeping your job if you do.
  • by grammar fascist (239789) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:09AM (#15433206) Homepage
    Can someone clarify this for me?

    The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote...

    So did the other eight vote, and then hold off for Alito, or what? How can you definitively say that Alito cast the deciding vote?

    This seems like anti-Alito flamebait to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because they heard this case once before, after O'Conner retired, and before Alito was confirmed, or even named, and it resulted in a 4-4 tie. They reheard it with Alito on the bench, and apparently, the voting for the other eight remained the same.

      Ergo, one could reasonably call Alito the deciding vote.
    • by schwaang (667808) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:39AM (#15433312)
      A self-described fascist said:
      So did the other eight vote, and then hold off for Alito, or what? How can you definitively say that Alito cast the deciding vote?

      From TFA you didn't read:
      A year ago, O'Connor authored a 5-4 decision that encouraged whistleblowers to report sex discrimination in schools. The current case was argued in October but not resolved before her retirement in late January.

      A new argument session was held in March with Alito on the bench. He joined the court's other conservatives in Tuesday's decision, which split along traditional conservative-liberal lines.
  • by pintomp3 (882811) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:15AM (#15433226)
    when i read "National Whistleblower Center", i just had to google it. sounded like an SNL sketch. i know some of you will argue that noone has a right to keep their job, but this opens the door to legally squash anyone who might uncover your wrongdoing. also, it's not the same as a private company firing someone giving out trade secrets. we have a right to know what's going on in OUR govt. this point seems to be lost, the govt should be accountable to the public, not the other way around.
  • by AME (49105) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:15AM (#15433227) Homepage
    Perhaps iminplaya should clear things up and tell us what he really thinks!

    Nothing but news here. No editorializing in sight. Good thing Slashdot has standards.

  • by Vraeden (696461) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:22AM (#15433261) Journal
    Reading the slip opinion, this case does not seem to be about retaliation for whistleblowing. A government employee was fired because his superiors believed his performance was inadequate, perhaps sparked by an argument over a possibly bad warrant.

    All the Court seems to say here is that the memo that Ceballos wrote was not something he wrote as a civilian to "whistleblow," he wrote the memo as part of his job and could indeed be fired for it.

    It'd be like getting fired for writing bad software...programmers can't claim their software is a communication protected by the 1st Amendment and then claim they can't be fired for it!

    I suspect that one could still write "memos" and send them to journalists as a civilian and have those writings protected.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @12:28AM (#15433275)
    That whistleblower protection has been abused by employees. It's not uncommon for an employee catching wind of an upcoming termination to either fabricate or amplify some alledged wrongdoing then invoke whistleblower protection to save his/her ass.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:11AM (#15433402)
    Considering how Sandra Day O'Connor was against the eminent domain decision last year -- truly one of the worst decisions of the last decade, if not longer -- along with the rest of the right leaning side of the bench, I hardly consider her departure has been replaced by someone that different overall than she is.
  • by Symbiosis (39537) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:12AM (#15433403) Homepage
    It doesn't really prevent people from whistleblowing. It just says that a statement you make under the official capacity of your job is considered part of your job, not free speech, and is thus under the same restrictions/scrutiny of any other aspects of your work.

    Does it make it a little harder to define something as legitimate "whisteblowing"? Probably. Is it the end of the world and the begining of an American police state? Probably not.
  • by Espressoman (8032) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:19AM (#15433426)
    As much as we in New Zealand make regular fun of the United States and it's people (and the monkey in charge), and as much as we feel disgust and anger over the war-mongering and bullying tactics of your corrupt government, I am beginning to feel genuinely afraid for the welfare of the American people. This is a tradgedy, to see decline of the land of the free, and the birth of this new and frightening empire.

    I truly hope the economic and political abomination which is now emerging falls much faster than Rome. I have little hope that the American people will do anything, or will even try. They are too sucked in by the corporate happy-face, too poorly educated in the true nature of the world, and too overwhelmed with fear at the hand of the war-maker's spin.

    There was a time when I aspired to live in the United States. A land of opportunity as they used to say. Now it's the land of the spied upon, the land of continual corporate, military and religious conquest, the land of the un-free, the land of delusions.
    • by bhima (46039) <Bhima@Pandava.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @03:17AM (#15433724) Journal
      Over the past 40 years I have lived in the Czech Republic, Australia, America, and now Austria. I have seen repressive governments and efforts of citizens to defeat it. I have seen protectionist governments and the efforts of citizens to enhance it. I have seen clueless governments and the astounding apathy of citizen inhabitants. I remember when the US was commonly thought to be the best place in the world to live. And I remember all the efforts my parents made to get US citizenship for my family.

      This recent decision of the Supreme Court of the US isn't going to instantly change the US into a regime more repressive than North Korea (despite what the left says the right is claiming). But it will make government whistle blowers think a fair bit more or more likely be a lot more cautious when they decide to go public. This is just one more little thing the government does to keep people in line and to keep secret things secret. I find it interesting that these days more & more unsavory things are kept secret.

      But still as a few raving conservatives have pointed out America is not worse than North Korea or China. So I suppose the events ongoing within the American civil system can be compared to those events that went on during the "Second Red Scare" in the 1950's, only now it's terrorists, gays, free thinkers, and non-Christians. I didn't live in the US then but I assume that McCarthyism did not affect most Americans or should I say if 1950's Americans are anything like 2000's Americans I doubt most even recognized how what was going on was wrong until their children learned it in school. McCarthyism went on for about 5 years but I fear this new scare will last longer... maybe we should call it the "Long Nebulous Scare".

      I wonder when the low point of this new scare will be, I'm getting sick of it already. I'm tired of clueless conservatives, reactionary liberals, rapacious capitalists, and the American theocrats. I'm tired of the vitriolic deception spewing from the mouths of the American political activists.
      "Not as Bad as North Korea" may be good enough for them... but it damn sure isn't good enough for me.
  • by Pvt_Waldo (459439) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:23AM (#15433442)
    Irrespective of "summary is flamebait!" and other "this is NOT a limit on first amendment rights!" comments, it seems like this puts a bit of a chill on anyone who speaks out about things. It doesn't matter about truth per se, but more perception - what people are going to think versus what's fact.

    Of course maybe this is GW's way of getting set up to fire some ex Generals :^)
  • by Petersko (564140) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @01:56AM (#15433527)
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." - The U.S. Constitution

    "Under the Senate bill, approved without objection by the House with no recorded vote, the "Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act" would bar protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison." - CNN [cnn.com]

    I'm not a fan of these jackasses who are making their point at military funerals. But isn't this type of thing exactly what the government is NOT supposed to be allowed to do?
  • by fortinbras47 (457756) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:03AM (#15433549)
    The following two points are NOT controversial:
    (1) A private employee's statements to his employer are not protected by the First Amendment. (If you go on TV and call your boss an asshole, he can fire you and you are NOT protected by the first amendment.)

    (2) The government CANNOT stop citizens from bringing up issues in the public interest.

    Which brings us to this case...
    The majority of the court simply said that in this case, the petitioner was acting in his official duties and falls in category (1) and not category (2). Federal whistleblower laws etc... might protect him, but he has no CONSITUTIONAL right of action under the First Amendment.

    Before you go crazy and mod me down, take a moment to read the opinion. [supremecourtus.gov] IMHO it's a quite reasonable outcome.

  • by BoneFlower (107640) <(george.worroll) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @02:48AM (#15433651) Journal
    This only restricts the exercise of free speech *in the performance of duty*. If employers could not restrict what employees said in the performance of duties, you could have "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" going out as an official government memo, and there would be little that could be done about it. Employers need to be able to restrict the speech of their employees while in an official capacity.

    Even apart from enshrining racist forgeries as official government memos, not being able to restrict official speech makes it virtually impossible to enforce any sort of protocol. Without established, enforced, and respected protocol the entire chain of command, unity, and general discipline will break down and the organization will founder. The ability to restrict official speech is critical to this.

    This ruling strikes a good balance. Makes it clear that you can't simply say anything *in an official capacity*, where you should be representing the interests of those who hired you, while leaving your rights to speak as your own person untouched.
  • FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FredThompson (183335) <fredthompson@mindsprin g . com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @04:17AM (#15433884)
    SFGate? You've got to be kidding. Use a real source like Oyez: http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1833/ [oyez.org]

    Garcetti v. Ceballos
    Docket Number: 04-473
    Abstract

    Argued:

    October 12, 2005
    Facts of the Case

    Richard Ceballos, an employee of the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, found that a sheriff misrepresented facts in a search warrant affidavit. Ceballos notified the attorneys prosecuting the case stemming from that arrest and all agreed that the affidavit was questionable, but the D.A.'s office refused to dismiss the case. Ceballos then told the defense he believed the affidavit contained false statements, and defense counsel subpoenaed him to testify. Seeking damages in federal district court, Ceballos alleged that D.A.s in the office retaliated against him for his cooperation with the defense, which he argued was protected by the First Amendment. The district court ruled that the district attorneys were protected by qualified immunity, but the Ninth Circuit reversed and ruled for Ceballos, holding that qualified immunity was not available to the defendants because Ceballos had been engaged in speech that addressed matters of public concern and was thus protected by the First Amendment.
    Question Presented

    1. Should a public employee's purely job-related speech, expressed strictly pursuant to the duties of employment, be protected by the First Amendment simply because it touched on a matter of public concern, or must the speech also be engaged in "as a citizen?" 2. Was immediate review by the Supreme Court necessary to address the growing inter-circuit conflict on the question of whether a public employee's purely job-related speech is constitutionally protected, especially where the lack of uniformity dramatically impacted the ability of all public employers to effectively manage their respective agencies?
    It sure seems like this guy was reprimanded for crossing the line between responsibility and advocacy. It is very common that a "situation" looks different at one level than another. This person was an employee of the DA's office and actively subverted that office. It's not his role or perogative to take this type of action. Had he quit his job and then pursued support of the defense, it would have been legal.

    This guy's action would be very similar to tipping off drug dealers about impending raids if the guy thought hte drug in question should be legal.

    There's no surprise here and the SFGate article is monstrously misleading.

    There is no such thing as First Amendment protection for government employees on their job or related to knowledge they've gained on the job. There never has been. Ask anyone who has been in the military.

    "Whistleblower" is a very specific case of protected speech. This guy wasn't a whistleblower. He didn't follow the proper channels and actively helped the opposition of the office where he was employeed.
  • by Yonder Way (603108) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @05:39AM (#15434066)
    It's really disappointing that /. would choose to publish a story that sounds like it was published straight from a DNC press release, or from the pen of Michael Moore. Notice how all the quotes and opinions offered are from the dissenters. Other than a short snippet from the majority opinion out of SCOTUS, you're not hearing the other side of this at all.

    This is another example of those with a soap box using it to advance their personal political beliefs rather than giving you all sides of a controversy and trusting you to be smart enough to decide for yourself. (i.e. the old "when we want your opinion we'll give it to you" approach)

    Of course because I dared to critique a one-sided pro-liberal story here, I will be the first person modded -3 Troll in /. history if the mod squad figures out how to do it. I've got karma to burn; do your worst.
  • Meanwhile in Canada (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kent_eh (543303) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @09:36AM (#15435335)
    recently introduced provincial whistleblower law [www.cbc.ca]
    And the federal law [www.cbc.ca]

Some people carve careers, others chisel them.

Working...