Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Although the right to freedom of expression has become more narrowly circumscribed for everyone in recent years, the abridgments of this right that the courts have held may constitutionally be imposed on public employees are exceptionally extensive. This has been justified basically in terms of the doctrines that public employment is a privilege which the government may extend or withdraw at will and upon such terms as it chooses, and that denial of public employment does not constitute punishment. The upshot is that in this area the government may act with almost complete arbitrariness, even when basic rights such as freedom of expression are involved.

A considerable amount of administrative and legislative discretion in matters of public personnel management seems clearly to be essential to modern government. Crucial issues arise, however, when in the exercise of their discretion administrative authorities or legislatures invade the constitutional rights of public employees.