Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The controlling factor in this case, Justice Kennedy wrote, was that Mr. Ceballos was acting purely in an official capacity when he complained internally about the search warrant. "Ceballos wrote his disposition memo because that is part of what he was employed to do," Justice Kennedy wrote. "He did not act as a citizen by writing it."
To accept Mr. Ceballos's argument, the majority concluded, would be to commit state and federal courts to "a new, permanent and intrusive role" overseeing communications among government employees and their superiors.
Dissenting in three separate opinions were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
"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," Justice Stevens wrote. He said the majority ruling could have the "perverse" effect of giving public employees an incentive to speak out publicly, as citizens, before talking frankly to their superiors.
I'm agreeing with Kennedy here, no doubt. I've signed more non-disclosure agreements than I can shake a stick at, so I was never under the impression that I could say whatever I wanted at my job. I mean, if I tell off my boss, I can't really expect to be promoted, can I?