The Nonpartisan Freedom of Expression of Public Employees

Governmental activities affect each of us in a myriad of ways. The government’s role as employer may pale in comparison with the more glamorous activities of the government as national defender, law enforcer, and allocator of scarce resources. Yet the legal ramifications of public employment-where the public interest in efficient governmental operation often conflicts with the public employee’s freedom-have a profound influence upon American society.

In 1968, the Supreme Court in Pickering v. Board of Education formulated a test designed to balance these interests in defining the scope of a public employee’s freedom of expression. In examining the nonpartisan free speech rights of civilian governmental workers, this Note analyzes Pickering and the cases following it, focusing on the proper application of that case’s balancing test and on the roles fashioned for public employees by these cases.