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Supreme Court affirms employee free speech rights

June 26, 2014 --

bullard-law2By Bullard Law,
Portland law firm

On June 19, 2014, in Lane v Franks, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that the First Amendment protects a public employee who provides truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the scope of his/her ordinary job duties. Sworn testimony in a judicial proceeding is a quintessential example of “citizen speech.” Anyone who testifies in court bears an obligation to tell the truth that is separate and distinct from any obligation the testifying public employee may owe to his/her employer. Thus, even testimony concerning information learned solely in the course of employment can be considered citizen speech for First Amendment purposes.

Underlying Dispute and Lower Court Holdings

Edward Lane directed a federally-funded program operated by the Central Alabama Community College. In the course of an audit, Mr. Lane discovered that a state legislator on the program’s payroll was not actually performing any job functions. For that reason, Mr. Lane terminated the legislator from the program.

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