In a case from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, the Supreme Court today made it harder for government employees to win lawsuits contending they were retaliated against for going public with allegations of official misconduct, reports the Associated Press. With new Justice Samuel Alito breaking a tie, the court ruled, 5 to 4, that the nation’s 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government’s inner-workings. Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment does not protect “every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.” The case was reargued after Alito replaced the retired Sandra Day O’Connor.
The decision backed the Los Angeles District Attorney, who appealed a ruling that prosecutor Richard Ceballos was constitutionally protected when he wrote a memo questioning whether a county sheriff’s deputy had lied in a search warrant affidavit. Ceballos had sued, saying he was demoted and denied a promotion for trying to expose the lie. Dissenter John Paul Stevens said that, “Public employees are still citizens while they are in the office. The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one’s employment is quite wrong.”