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Article Title

Lane v. Franks

Document Type

Recent Case

Abstract

On June 19, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the scope of public employee free speech with its decision in Lane v. Franks. The Court granted certiorari in order “to resolve discord among the Courts of Appeals as to whether public employees may be fired—or suffer other adverse employment consequences—for providing truthful subpoenaed testimony outside the course of their ordinary job responsibilities.” The unanimous Lane decision, which affirmed in part and reversed in part an opinion by the Eleventh Circuit, held that the First Amendment protects a public employee from retaliatory employer discipline where the employee testifies at trial, pursuant to a subpoena, and when such testimony is not required by his or her duties as an employee. However, the Court also ruled that the public employer in Lane could not be held liable in his individual capacity for damages because he enjoyed qualified immunity from suit. Lane adds its voice to the preexisting Pickering v. Board of Education and Garcetti v. Ceballos frameworks of public employee speech. Lane is important because it further clarifies the Court’s public employee speech doctrine, while also providing more definite limits to Garcetti by asking whether the speech “is itself ordinarily within the scope of an employee’s duties, not whether it merely concerns those duties.”

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