Skip to comments.Caution: This Column Now Protected by the First Amendment
Posted on 04/11/2011 4:05:37 AM PDT by Kaslin
Authors Note: Thanks to William Creeley of FIRE for allowing me to use his brilliant article from The Torch as a template to write this one.
Some told us we should just give up. Others told us we should simply accept the federal judges decision and resign ourselves to the fact that the First Amendment is now dead on our college campuses. But the Alliance Defense Fund took my case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in January. And, last week, they issued a landmark defense of First Amendment rights for faculty at public colleges and universities. For the first time in years, Im getting love mail from liberals.
In my original complaint filed against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2007, my attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund alleged that my application for promotion had been denied in part due to the conservative political viewpoints expressed through my work as a columnist. In a ruling issued in March of 2010, the federal district court rejected our claims. With respect to my First Amendment retaliation charge, the district court found that because I had included the conservative columns in my application for promotion, the content of the columns became speech "made pursuant to (my) official duties"and thus not protected by the First Amendment.
In support of the holding, the district court cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U. S. 410 (2006), in which the Court ruled that public employees do not enjoy First Amendment protections when engaging in speech pursuant to their official duties. Under Garcetti, the district court determined that the columns could not be cited as grounds for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment.
The district court's reliance on Garcetti was particularly disturbing because it was not an isolated event. It was just the latest in a series of Garcetti-based rulings for public university faculty members. The problem with Garcetti is that in lessening First Amendment protections for public employees generally it has a far greater impact on faculty members.
Put simply, faculty members are required to speak regularly on a broad range of issues in order to fulfill service and research requirements. It should go without saying that our duties differ greatly from those of police officers, fire fighters, and employees for the Department of Motor Vehicles. That is probably why Justice Anthony Kennedy inserted a crucial caveat into the majority opinion he penned in Garcetti, writing:
There is some argument that expression related to academic scholarship or classroom instruction implicates additional constitutional interests that are not fully accounted for by this Court's customary employee-speech jurisprudence. We need not, and for that reason do not, decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching.
Before my case, Justice Kennedy's warning had been largely disregarded by courts. So my old friends at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) joined with The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression to file a brief urging the Fourth Circuit to reverse the lower court's decision to throw out my case. And the panel of three judges did just that.
The landmark ruling from the Fourth Circuit was welcome news for conservatives, liberals, and non-partisan supporters of the First Amendment alike. In reversing the district court's First Amendment holding, the Fourth Circuit panel made several key points.
First, the Fourth Circuit pointed out that the district court hadn't even acknowledged Justice Kennedy's carve-out for public faculty speech.
Second, the Fourth Circuit pointed out that just because I had included my columns in my application for promotion, that act alone did not transform them into speech made pursuant to my duties as a government employee. The court observed that "[n]othing about listing the speech on Adams' promotion application changed Adams' status when he spoke or the content of the speech when made."
Third, the court noted that while Garcetti may apply to public university faculty when their duties include "a specific role in declaring or administering university policy, as opposed to scholarship or teaching," the facts presented by my case don't merit such an application. Indeed, the court found that my case involved speech that was "intended for and directed at a national or international audience on issues of public importance unrelated to any of my assigned teaching duties at UNCW or any other terms of my employment.
Fourth, the court noted that even though the speech was "unrelated to any of Adams' assigned teaching duties" and "was clearly that of a citizen speaking on a matter of public concern," it nevertheless implicated my right to academic freedom simply because it is understood that professors will provide such commentary as a function of their role as academics. The court addressed the intent of Garcetti in very clear language:
Applying Garcetti to the academic work of a public university faculty member under the facts of this case could place beyond the reach of First Amendment protection many forms of public speech or service a professor engaged in during his employment. That would not appear to be what Garcetti intended, nor is it consistent with our long-standing recognition that no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.
Fifth, and perhaps most surprising to me, the Fourth Circuit commented on the district court's denial of the defense of qualified immunity to the university administrators named as defendants in my case. In that portion of the opinion, the judges rejected the argument that the impact of Garcetti was to so fundamentally alter the law that reasonable university administrators can't possibly know that faculty members continue to enjoy a First Amendment right to speak out about matters of public concern:
(T)he underlying right Adams asserts the Defendants violated - that of a public employee to speak as a citizen on matters of public concern - is clearly established and something a reasonable person in the Defendants' position should have known was protected.
This all means that soon my lawyers with the ADF will go back to court to argue for a trial on the facts of my First Amendment retaliation claim. But thousands of professors in the Fourth Circuit most of whom do not share my views - have already won a major victory. Their free speech rights once again belong to them as individuals and not to the state that employs them.
Excellent. I always enjoy Mike Adams’ columns.
I contribute regularly to Alliance Defense Fund. They do good work.
In my limited educated view-the whole idea that any professor-or employee(no matter what their job description) and certainly NO student enrolled at any institution of education surrenders their rights as recognized in the Bill of rights.
Simply by attending or being employed by an institution funded even partially by the State.In other words it is evil and despotism for any institution to claim the terms used in the Constitution mean something other than they did when adopted.
and ones rights to freedom granted by God/fundamental freedoms are not the property of any government.
Of course, this begs the question of why there are government-employed “teachers” or teaching institutions in the first place.
This is a well-written piece.
Thanks for posting it in full so all can share!
The idea is that in some manner you, as a government employee, may have drawn on government, that is, PUBLIC resources to concoct your invention. This applies even to work you may have done on your own time. Since the same standard has been made applicable to contract employees you'll find virtually all contractors sign on to do research for the federal government under the stipulation that THEIR employees, not the government, own all the patents. Every now and then you'll hear of someone complaining about contractors using gub'mnt money to enrich themselves personally with patents ~ and there's the reason. Else, nobody would do research under contract with the gub'mnt.
No one has bothered challenging the underlying government policy in court ~ on the other hand, federal government employees have simply stopped patenting their "inventions" ~ which shows you how terribly intelligent the policy is. (/s).
Obviously the trial court judge had absolutely no difficulty applying the same sort of standard to professorial materials produced separate and apart from work done for the institution.
Gives me hope that eventually federal government employees will challenge the same misbegotten legal standard applied to their inventions.
Notice the final statement in that piece ~ "In other words it is evil and despotism for any institution to claim the terms used in the Constitution mean something other than they did when adopted; and ones rights to freedom granted by God/fundamental freedoms are not the property of any government."
I hate to disagree with Mike Adams, but the First Amendment does NOT protect his “right” to get promoted. It simply means that his employers can’t prevent him from writing or distributing his column.
The First Amendment does NOT mean that there are no private consequences to airing your opinions through a public medium.
Awesome news for Mike! T4TP!
[The First Amendment does NOT mean that there are no private consequences to airing your opinions through a public medium.]
I concur. I do see, however, that he has probably been discriminated against because he holds and publishes opinions that differ greatly from the university administration about politics. Can, or should, his consideration for promotion be affected by political bias? Could or should the disproportionate numbers of liberal professors have been curbed by such discrimination earlier last century? Would that have been a good thing?
I hate to disagree with you but the First Amendment does protect him from the government using his first amendment right to prevent his promotion.
His employer is government. It can not descriminate against him for his polotics, that is what the bill of rights is about, limits on gevernment, not on people.
Sure it can. By the current standards his political writings are “seditious” and “promote hate.” If that’s not grounds for denying promotions or tenure, I don’t know what is.
If I were in their place, I’d sure as hell discriminate against socialists and communists - if they buy that stuff they’re either too evil or too stupid for promotion.
Well, we failed to discriminate and now the inmates run the nut-houses that make up “higher education” and they’re not going to promote anyone who isn’t at least as crazy as they are.
So glad you are so comfortable with the restrictions soon to be placed upon your rights.
Mike could care less about getting fired, he’s got tenure. The university isn’t going to fire him.
The issue is his quest to become a full professor for the university. The university cited his columns and the content therein as justification for denying his promotion. The problem is that it is ILLEGAL to discriminate against an employee for expressing opinions to which you disagree. You can’t fire an employee for the explicit reason of expressing himself.
Thank You ,very much. I appreciate it when a well reasoned reply teaches me that which I did not know/or consider-Too often my reply are flip— and specific only to those aspects I know-and understand.Thank You -I am increased by your reply.
We are talking about a public institution, not a private school. It is entirely possible that this decision boxes in the school so severely that they have no choice but to promote this guy.
Is meteorology a hard science? Seems like equations are made up there, as with evolution.
Settled science...but that’s for other threads.
The leftist agenda creeps into everything, even the Christian church.
Well, we know the true worth of the liberals in Climatology by their work. They hid for a while, but once we got the math, we knew they were frauds.