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Shibboleths and Ceballos: Eroding Constitutional Rights Through Pseudocommunication

58 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2009 Last revised: 10 Mar 2009

Susan Stuart

Valparaiso University School of Law


In Garcetti v. Ceballos, the Supreme Court determined that a government employer can retaliate against an employee for on-the-job speech so long as that speech was part of the employee's official duties. Because government employees are often responsible for reporting concerns about government mismanagement and other matters of public concern, this decision leaves the public unprotected from the unbridled discretion of government supervisors. The possible motivations for this decision are several: the adoption of an increasingly popular management style that marginalizes employees; a free-market theory of governance that reregulates control of government supervisors; and perhaps the protection of government supervisors from whistleblowers. All these possibilities are symptomatic of the Court's increasingly authoritarian tendencies in matters of employer-employee relations. In addition, the legal underpinnings for this result are rather unprecedented, having little legal support or analysis. Instead, the Court majority disguised its result and intentions by employing four basic rhetorical devices that masked the absence of legal analysis with pseudocommunication techniques.

Keywords: pseudocommunication, freedom of speech, First Amendment, public employees, authoritarianism, Garcetti, Ceballos, Orwell

Suggested Citation

Stuart, Susan, Shibboleths and Ceballos: Eroding Constitutional Rights Through Pseudocommunication. Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2008, No. 5, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Susan Stuart (Contact Author)

Valparaiso University School of Law ( email )

656 S. Greenwich St.
Valparaiso, IN 46383-6493
United States

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