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United States v. National Treasury Employees Union

    Citation. 513 U.S. 454, 115 S. Ct. 1003, 130 L. Ed. 2d 964, 1995 U.S.

    Brief Fact Summary. Congress passed a law prohibiting federal employees from being paid for making speeches or writing articles.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The government may not forbid all employees from being paid for speech when the speech is unrelated to their jobs, just those in high ranking positions.


    Facts. All federal employees were prohibited from collecting compensation for giving speeches or writing articles even if the subject was not related to their jobs.

    Issue. Does this prohibition on compensation for speeches infringe upon the First Amendment Constitutional rights of federal employees?

    Held. Yes. The honoraria ban burdens the employee’s right to free speech. The employees seek compensation for their expressions not as government employees, but as citizens. Because this ban focuses only on speech it puts a significant burden on the employee’s 1st Amendment rights. The employee is forced to choose between his job and expressing his thoughts. The ban in effect stops speech.

    Dissent. This ban on honoraria is consistent with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) and should not apply only to those above a certain pay grade.

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    Discussion. The law does not prohibit any speech, but by prohibiting compensation for speech, the Congress has discouraged employees from sharing their thoughts. On the other hand, it is important to ban compensation when it could appear that the speaker, in his official capacity, has been improperly influenced by the compensation or has used his position to profit.

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