The Supreme Court heard arguments today over whether public employee (sic) who testify under subpoena at public corruption trials should be protected by the First Amendment. The position of President Barack Obama’s administration appears to be that they should not be protected.
The case is Lane v Franks and it involves Edward Lane, who according to NPR was “hired in 2006 to head a program for juvenile offenders” at Central Alabama Community College that provided “counseling and education as an alternative to incarceration.” The program “received substantial federal funds.”
Lane conducted an audit and discovered that one of the program’s “best-paid employees, a state representative named Suzanne Schmitz, was not showing up for work.” He met with her and was told that he shouldn’t “tangle” with her because she had influence. He refused to be complicit and fired Schmitz.
The FBI was investigating “public corruption in Alabama” and Lane was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and at Schmitz’s two trials. She was convicted of “fraudulently obtaining $177,000 in public funds.” Yet, Lane never received any reward for his role. He was, instead, fired and decided to sue because he believed his termination was retaliation for testifying. It violated his First Amendment rights.