I had the privilege of attending a session of the U.S. Supreme Court two days ago. I was there to move the admission of Chicago area employment rights attorney Joette Doran. While waiting for the justices to enter, I visited with attorneys who represent parents of special needs children. They were attending to hear the Court's argument in Forest Grove School Dist. v. T.A. I quickly learned that one of the biggest barriers for special needs children is that their teachers fear retaliation.Continue Reading...
in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Garcetti v. Ceballos, in which they held that government employees are not protected by the First Amendment when they report concerns at work. This awful decision served as an impetus for advocates of employee rights, civil rights, and free speech issues, to band together and demand a comprehensive whistleblower law to protect government employees. While advocates continue to battle for whistleblower rights in Congress, federal courts have begun to recognized the ill-conceived policies of the Garcetti decision. Recently, we told you about a 10th Circuit federal appeals court decision that allowed a building inspector whistleblower to have his day in court. Now, the 4th Circuit has produced a great decision in favor of a Baltimore policeman who reported misconduct in the police shooting of an unarmed elderly man.
As pointed out by this article, posted on The First Amendment Center website, Judge Wilkinson's concurring opinion in that case, Andrews v. Clark, is a powerful rebuke of the policies underlying the Garcetti decision. In his concurrence, Judge Wilkinson says that throwing out the whistleblower's case "would have profound adverse effects on accountability in government" and “informed scrutiny of the workings of government...is impossible without some assistance from inside sources such as Michael Andrew.” This decision, along with Judge Wilkinson's concurrence, is great evidence that our federal judges get it.
Today, the National Whistleblowers Center joined a letter with members of the Make it Safe Coalition asking President Obama to reaffirm his campaign commitment to stronger whistleblower protections. The letter acknowledges the Presidents efforts to improve transparency and accountability in the federal government with the creation of the Open Government Directive and the recent memorandum to agency heads directing them to adopt appropriate whistleblower protections to ensure scientific integrity. However, the groups express concern that the President’s signing statement on March 11th could have a chilling affect on lawful whistleblower disclosures to Congress.
The letter urges President Obama to make his position clear and take three concrete steps to fulfill his commitment to transparency and accountability through strengthened federal employee whistleblower rights.