A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Supreme Court to rule on prohibited personnel practices

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether the code of Prohibited Personnel Practices [5 USC § 2302(b)(8)(A)] can bar an agency from taking action against an employee who intentionally divulges sensitive security information. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) [Cornell LII backgrounder], which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website], was passed in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 [JURIST backgrounder]. The ATSA declared that certain security activities, which could be harmful if released to the public, were to be protected from public disclosure. The issue in question occurred when a former federal air marshal revealed TSA plans to the media in effort to create a controversy that would change the agency's practices. The air marshal now claims that his subsequent removal was in violation of Prohibited Personnel Practices. This statutory code states that personnel action cannot be taken against an employee for disclosing certain types of information. The statutory protections do not apply, however, where an employee makes a disclosure that is specifically prohibited by law. The Supreme Court is to determine whether the air marshal's intentional disclosure of TSA plans was specifically prohibited by law, which would render 5 USC § 2302(b)(8)(A) inapplicable.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.