WASHINGTON (AP) — The First Amendment protects public employees from job retaliation when they are called to testify in court about official corruption, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The unanimous decision cheered whistleblower advocates, who said it could encourage more government workers to cooperate with prosecutors in public fraud cases without fear of losing their livelihoods.
The justices decided in favor of Edward Lane, a former Alabama community college official who says he was fired after testifying at the criminal fraud trial of a state lawmaker. Lower courts had ruled against Lane, finding that he was testifying as a college employee, not as a citizen.
But Lane won only a partial victory. The high court also ruled that the college’s former president is immune from damages under laws shielding public officials from lawsuits in their official capacity.
Writing for the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Lane’s testimony was constitutionally protected because he was speaking as a citizen on a matter of public concern, even if it covered facts he learned at work.