[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Wednesday heard arguments on how far First Amendment protection should stretch for government whistleblowers who claim retaliation for their speech. In Garcetti v. Ceballos [Duke Law backgrounder], an employee in the Los Angeles District Attorney's office claimed he was retaliated against after he testified for the defense in a case in which he argued that a sheriff lied in a search warrant affidavit. The Bush administration opposed extending speech protection, and some of the justices expressed discomfort with extending First Amendment protection to speech made in the course of one's job if it is an issue of public concern. Constitutional protection has previously been accorded only to speech made as a citizen. During the arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Court's decision could have a major impact on governmental offices around the country. The National Whistleblower Center [advocacy website] has a news release on the case. The ABA has merit briefs filed in the proceeding. AP has more.
The Court also heard arguments Wednesday in US v. Olson [Duke Law backgrounder], in which it is expected to decide whether the US government can be held liable for injuries following a mine inspection under the Federal Tort Claims Act [backgrounder]. In the case, two miners injured when falling rock slab in a copper mine sued the Mine Safety and Health Administration [official website], arguing that the agency's inspection of the mine was negligent. The FTCA waives federal government immunity in situations where a private party would be liable, but the lower courts in the case had disagreed on whether there was a private equivalent to federal mine inspectors. The ABA has merit briefs for the case. AP has more.