The Supreme Court yesterday heard its second round of arguments on whether whether government employees have free-speech rights that protect them on the job, reports the Associated Press. The case involves Richard Ceballos, a Los Angeles prosecutor demoted after he urged supervisors to drop a criminal case because he believed a sheriff’s deputy lied in a search warrant affidavit. At issue is whether employer desires to run efficient workplaces outweigh whistle-blowers’ rights to speak out on matters of public interest.
The case is being reheard apparently because of a tie vote after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired. Her replacement, Samuel Alito, questioned all lawyers in the case, wondering whether employers would have to specify every job duty an employee has to avoid lawsuits like the one Ceballos filed. The AP says that four other justices were skeptical of arguments by Bonnie Robin-Vergeer, Ceballos’ attorney, that public employees have free-speech rights when they speak out in an office or write memoranda. Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office had a right to try to control “a loose cannon.”