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Supreme Court upholds restraints on First Amendment rights of government employees

[JURIST] In a per curiam decision handed down Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the City of San Diego's decision to terminate a police officer who made and sold sexually explicit videotapes of himself in uniform did not violate the officer's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of speech. In its decision, the court wrote:

A government employee does not relinquish all First Amendment rights otherwise enjoyed by citizens just by reason of his or her employment. See, e.g., Keyishian v. Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y., 385 U. S. 589, 605–606 (1967). On the other hand, a governmental employer may impose certain restraints on the speech of its employees, restraints that would be unconstitutional if applied to the general public. The Court has recognized the right of employees to speak on matters of public concern, typically matters concerning government policies that are of interest to the public at large, a subject on which public employees are uniquely qualified to comment. See Connick, supra; Pickering v. Board of Ed. of Township High School Dist. 205, Will Cty., 391 U. S. 563 (1968). Outside of this category, the Court has held that when government employees speak or write on their own time on topics unrelated to their employment, the speech can have First Amendment protection, absent some governmental justification "far stronger than mere speculation" in regulating it. United States v. Treasury Employees, 513 U. S. 454, 465, 475 (1995) (NTEU). We have little difficulty in concluding that the City was not barred from terminating Roe under either line of cases.
The court concluded:
The speech in question was detrimental to the mission and functions of the employer. There is no basis for finding that it was of concern to the community as the Court's cases have understood that term in the context of restrictions by governmental entities on the speech of their employees.
Read the full opinion [PDF].

11:50 AM ET - AP now has a report here.

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