Government Workers and Government Speech

Source: Helen Norton, First Amendment Law Review, Vol. 7, Fall 2008

Under what circumstances may the government consider the speech of its employees as its own, thus permitting it to control that speech without running afoul of the First Amendment? Concluding that a government employer should remain free to “exercise … employer control over what the employer itself has commissioned or created,” the Supreme Court held in Garcetti v. Ceballos that public employees’ speech made “pursuant to their official duties” receives no First Amendment protection. In so holding, the Court created a bright-line rule that essentially defines government workers’ speech pursuant to their official duties as the government’s own speech – i.e., speech that the government has bought and thus may control, regardless of the strength of the public’s interest in it or its impact, if any, on governmental efficiency.

Leave a Reply