House panel kills whistle-blower juries

Nov. 3, 2011 at 3:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A markup of a U.S. House bill Thursday strips federal whistle-blowers and contractors of the right to a jury trial, an advocacy group said.

The change to the Whistleblowers Protection Act was passed on a 20-13 party-line vote, the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington said.

The center said the amendments include limits on appeals and authorization of an administrative board to summarily dismiss whistle-blower cases.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, offered an amendment that would have restored language to provide jury trial access for federal employee and contractor whistle-blowers, but that also was rejected by a party-line vote.

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Thursday the U.S. Senate also intended to strip out jury trial rights from its version of the amendments.

In a statement, National Whistleblowers Center Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn said: "I am startled to learn from Chairman Issa that the Senate, behind closed doors, has decided to abandon their longstanding support for jury trials. This is another setback in a series of setbacks that have rendered this current reform effort toothless and counter-productive. Access to jury trials is a hallmark in all modern whistle-blower laws and an absolutely essential provision to ensure that whistle-blowers can have a fair hearing. The Braley amendment tried to restore what the House had accomplished with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities in the past. The current shift in position demonstrates a dangerous anti-whistleblower bias in the current Congress."

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