The Whistleblower Protection Clinic (formerly called the Government Accountability Project Clinic) provides students with a unique opportunity to work with leaders in the legal community who preserve freedom of speech by protecting those who blow the whistle on corporate and governmental abuses of power that betray the public trust. One of two off-premises clinics in the School of Law’s Clinical Program, students in the Whistleblower Protection Clinic are supervised by the adjunct professors of the Government Accountability Project located in downtown Washington.
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization that promotes government and corporate accountability through advancing occupational free speech and ethical conduct, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. GAP’s lawyers and law students represent government and private employees who are threatened with retaliation for speaking out against fraud, waste, mismanagement, abuse of authority, environmental dangers, and public health and safety problems. GAP clients span a wide spectrum, including persons who deal with environmental issues, nuclear oversight, food and drug safety, worker health and safety, patient care, international reform and national security.
In seeking the resolution of the substantive concerns raised by whistleblowers, GAP: 1) provides legal representation to defend the free speech rights of whistleblowers who suffer retaliation; 2) seeks forums for the whistleblowers’ dissent in order to promote the successful resolution of the problems exposed; 3) litigates and engages in legislative education to advocate for stronger judicial and legislative whistleblower protection; and 4) aids affected individuals and community groups in addressing issues raised by whistleblower disclosures. Clinic students primarily focus on three dimensions of the work: 1) investigating claims of retaliation and developing evidence to support the claims; 2) filing complaints under the Whistleblower Protection Act and other anti-retaliation laws; and 3) conducting legal research to monitor whether employers are adhering to the law or whether laws need strengthening.
Clinic students are assigned to supervising attorneys with teaching experience and a strong commitment to providing each student with high quality advocacy training. Students receive individualized instruction and feedback from their supervising attorneys. GAP’s fundamental operating principle is cooperative lawyering; therefore, students are encouraged to take advantage of the expertise of the entire staff. Seminars cover a diverse range of subjects. Students learn how to conduct hearings, prepare affidavits, obtain information from government agencies, interpret statutes, and work with the news media. In addition to learning the intricacies of whistleblower law, Whistleblower Protection Clinic students are exposed to and work with a wide variety of environmental and employment law.
GAP is particularly concerned with government agencies that misuse their own whistleblower protection mechanisms. They have had cases where an agency’s internal investigators have themselves retaliated against a whistleblower. Students have played important roles in these cases. In one, a student’s investigation of retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer who disclosed corruption led to a settlement with the agency and prevented the obstruction of an international drug smuggling probe. In a second case, a student drafted a successful petition requesting a stay of a firing of a Department of the Interior employee who had disclosed the agency’s shortcutting of the environmental reviews necessary for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
Contacting the Whistleblower Protection Clinic
Government Accountability Project
1612 K Street NW, Ste 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 408-0034
Clinic Director: Prof. Tom Devine