July 17, 2014
On June 19, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lane v. Franks. The question in this case is twofold: First, whether the government is categorically free under the First Amendment to retaliate against a public employee for truthful sworn testimony that was compelled by subpoena and was not a part of the employee’s ordinary job responsibilities; and second, whether qualified immunity precludes a claim for damages in such an action.
Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, which held that Lane's truthful sworn testimony at a state representative's criminal trials was speech as a citizen on a matter of public concern, and therefore protected. Even though the testimony was protected, however, Lane's claim against his superior Franks in Franks' individual capacity must be dismissed on grounds of qualified immunity. The claims against Franks in his official capacity were remanded for further proceedings. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Scalia and Alito. The opinion of the Eleventh Circuit was affirmed in part and reversed in part.
To discuss the case, we have Josh Blackman, who is an Assistant Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law.