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Landmark Victory for Whistleblowers

Pro Bono

Americas

We depend on federal employees to warn us of government practices and bureaucratic errors that endanger public health or safety. We secured a rare win for government whistleblowers in the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2015, representing former federal air marshal Robert J. MacLean.

In 2003, MacLean learned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) planned to remove federal air marshals from long-distance flights, despite an imminent hijacking threat. When the DHS refused to change course, MacLean turned to the media. The DHS ultimately reversed itself after a congressional uproar, but the agency fired MacLean in retaliation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that MacLean was eligible for federal whistleblower protections, but the government took the appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that this ruling opened the door to leaks that threaten public safety and that the disclosure was prohibited by agency regulations.

Our lawyers stepped in on MacLean's behalf and secured a landmark victory before the Supreme Court. The court's 7-2 decision stands as an important bulwark against government abuse.

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