U. S. Supreme Court Starts a Brush-fire of Grassroots Activism through a National Speak-Up Campaign

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The High Court’s recent failure to condemn the punishment of responsible speech in the landmark case of Garcetti et al., v. Ceballos, intensified the sting of "concerns . . . about the legislative branch setting up a so-called guardian for the judicial branch," reportedly expressed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and prompted grassroots activists to massively lobby for that and related action by Congress.

intensified the lingering sting of 'concerns ... about the legislative branch setting up a so-called guardian for the judicial branch,' reportedly expressed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

For a full month, experts and concerned citizens have expounded on the various views recently expressed by a divided U. S. Supreme Court as it considered "...whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties" in the landmark case of Garcetti et al., v. Ceballos. Zena D. Crenshaw, executive director of the American Whistleblowers League (AWL), says she analyzed the decision "in a broad framework because AWL is sponsored by a judicial reform organization and accordingly networks with many good government advocates who rarely focus on the concerns of whistleblowers." From that perspective she notes how "the U. S. Supreme Court never factored the objective of deterring retaliation for protected speech in its consideration of whether the First Amendment should be a source of that protection." Crenshaw adds that "despite the admirable language of their dissents, even our most liberal Justices passed on the opportunity to clearly condemn the punishment of responsible speech presented by Garcetti," a lapse Crenshaw says "intensified the lingering sting of 'concerns ... about the legislative branch setting up a so-called guardian for the judicial branch,' reportedly expressed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg."

On April 27, 2006, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) introduced separate proposals for a federal court, Inspector General under the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act (JTEE), S. 2678/H.R. 5219. Chairman Sensenbrenner explained that the "... IG will serve as a public watchdog to root out waste, fraud, and abuse and ensure the Third Branch’s taxpayer-funded resources are utilized in an appropriate manner, just as IGs do throughout the Executive Branch." On May 3, 2006, Gina Holland of the Associated Press quoted Justice Ginsburg as she encouraged members of the American Bar Association to '... speak up and "say these efforts are wrong" as ... Judges cannot lobby on their own behalf.'

As executive director of Redress, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for victims of injustice, and Coalition for Legal Reform, a PAC, Juli Star-Alexander reports that many "find it ironic for the U. S. Supreme Court to scorn a federal court Inspector General when it left so many at the mercy of public employers and those legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies charged with regulating them."

According to Betsy Combier, president of the E-Accountability Foundation which promotes internet based activism, "several grassroots activists resolved to organize and speak up in a big way to say as to the JTEE, Justice Ginsburg and like-minded jurists are wrong." Andrew D. Jackson, Project Coordinator for National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project,Inc., explains "the result is a web-based, Speak Up campaign to support congressional judicial reform efforts that promote individual rights; the ongoing charge among government whistleblowers and their advocates to '. . . protect on the job duty speech . . . ' and; strengthening the No FEAR Act, a law intended to make federal agencies accountable for civil rights violations."

Tom Devine, Legal Director of the distinguished Government Accountability Project (GAP), considers the referenced Speak Up campaign a "blue chip initiative." GAP’s legislative representative, Adam Miles, has included the effort in a "final push for a breakthrough in good government reform during a period of unprecedented government secrecy and corruption." The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) similarly made "Whistleblowers Dirty Dozen" a topic of the Speak Up campaign. NSWBC president, celebrated whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, describes the dozen as a list of U. S. Senators and Representatives "who resisted NSWBC appeals for meaningful investigations, hearings, and legislation in response to reports by our members of fraud, waste, abuse, and criminal activities within government agencies." Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, president of the No Fear Coalition and an inspiration for the No FEAR Act of 2002, commends all these efforts, graciously noting how they are expanded through the work of her co-chairman, Matthew F. Fogg, the National 1st Vice President for Blacks In Government (BIG) and EEO director for Federally Employed Women Legal & Education Fund. Fogg consistently honors BIG's legacy of resisting racial and gender discrimination in the Federal, State and Municipal

government workplace while fighting for human rights as a Board member for Amnesty International, the worlds largest human rights organization.

Primarily grassroots activists launched and manage what is now a national Speak Up campaign through what they appropriately call the "High Grass Council." Sherry Swiney, president of a popular prisoners’ rights group called the PATRICK Crusade, says "the effort largely amounts to many people circulating the same or similar email messages that direct people to our Speak Up website which receives input through Action Pages." Tom Saunders, her colleague and founder of the Bill of Attainder Project, estimates the broad based, national effort will start "a perfect storm of judicial reform and protection for government whistleblowers." It appears that the US Supreme Court's recent decision has awakened a sleeping giant.

The High Grass Council (HGC) is a national association of primarily grassroots activists who manage the web-based, speak up campaign at http://www.wespeakup.org by determining all aspects of the underlying campaign, including site contents. The views and opinions thereby expressed are not necessarily those of the HGC nor any member thereof.

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Andrew D. Jackson or Zena D. Crenshaw
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