TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Supreme Court rules that First Amendment protects government employees who testify

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By USA Today
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:36 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that government employees who testify about public corruption are protected by the First Amendment.

But in the case of Edward Lane, who was fired from his job at an Alabama community college when his testimony helped convict a former state legislator on corruption-related charges, the court said he can't necessarily collect damages.

The ruling by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the freedom-of-speech case was a victory for government whistle-blowers. Two lower courts had ruled earlier that Lane, testifying as a public employee about knowledge he gained on the job, was not protected from retaliation by the First Amendment.

But the high court ruled that in testifying under subpoena, Lane was acting as a citizen, not a public employee.

“Truthful testimony under oath by a public employee outside the scope of his ordinary job duties is speech as a citizen for First Amendment purposes,” Sotomayor said. “That is so even when the testimony relates to his public employment or concerns information learned during that employment.”

Lane was an employee at Central Alabama Community College whose testimony helped convict former Alabama state representative Sue Schmitz. He was fired when he testified at Schmitz's first trial in 2008.

Lawyers for Steve Franks, former president of the two-year college, argued that Lane's testimony wasn't protected by the First Amendment because it was based on information he gleaned only from his job, and he was testifying as a state employee, not a citizen.

State and federal government lawyers had sided with Lane on the First Amendment issue.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Supreme Court hears historic same-sex marriage arguments
  2. National Guard called in to keep the peace in Baltimore
  3. Obamacare contraception ruling thrown out
  4. Riot erupts in Baltimore after funeral for man hurt in police custody
  5. Study a surprise: Commercial bees unfazed by pesticides
  6. ‘Organic’ tag on water-raised produce raises ire
  7. Storm knocks out power to New Orleans airport for hours
  8. Government fluoride standard lowered
  9. Magma chamber spied under Yellowstone volcano
  10. Administration turns up heat on Medicaid expansion
  11. Supreme Court leans toward legalizing gay marriage nationally