Federal Court Finds Mississippi Police Officer’s Facebook Comments Criticizing Department’s Decision Not to Attend Funeral of Officer Killed in the Line of Duty Not Protected Speech

By Emily Nelson

Thumbs DownSusan Graziosi, a sergeant of the Greenville Mississippi Police Department, alleged she was fired in retaliation for posting criticisms of her police Chief Freddie Cannon on Facebook The federal district court dismissed her free speech claim in Graziosi v. City of Greenville, finding that the Chief was justified in firing her in order to minimize disruption in the department.

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Florida Mass Drug Testing Arbitration Result Appears to Turn on its Facts and CBA Language

By Jim Cline

CommentaryOccasionally, an arbitration decision calls out for a bit more explanation and the Arbitrator’s Ruling allowing the Ocala Fire Department to “Mass Test” its Firefighters is one such decision.  As described in our recent case note on the decision, the arbitrator found that the reasonable suspicion language in the CBA allowed the City to undertake a “mass test” all firefighters with any type of access to fire trucks from which narcotics had gone missing.

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Secretly Recorded Conversation with the Sheriff Helps Texas Corrections Captain in Fight to Keep Job

By Anthony Rice

Secret RecordingIn Haverda v. Hays County, an the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found Texas Corrections Captain Haverda introduced enough evidence that could lead a reasonable juror to conclude Haverda’s demotion was motivated by his speech.  It rejected a lower court ruling that had dismissed Haverda’s claim and sent it back for trial.

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Suspicious Timing of Detective’s Transfer after Political Involvement and Favorable Testimony that Detective had “Made the Mayor Mad” Creates a Triable First Amendment Claim

By Anthony Rice

3d man speechIn Peele v. Burch, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision granting summary judgment to the City on a detective’s First Amendment Claim against the Portage Indiana Police Department. The court held that the detective presented sufficient evidence that casts doubt on the defendants’ story and thus creates a triable claim.

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Ninth Circuit Allows Officers to Pursue Gold: Union Vote of No Confidence against Sierra Madre Chief that Resulted in Delay of Promotion of Police Association Qualifies for Trial

By Mitchel Wilson

no confidenceIn Ellins v. City of Sierra Madre, 35 IER Cases 432 (2013), the Ninth Court of Appeals remanded a case against the City of Sierre Madre for trial because the trial court dismissed it after it incorrectly concluded that Officer John Ellins did not qualify for first amendment protections.

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Third Circuit Upholds Lawsuit against Jersey City Mayor and Police Chief Crony by Former Female Officer for Freezing All Promotion Because She Supported an Opposing Candidate

By Mitchel Wilson

LawsuitThe Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Montone v. City of Jersey City, reversed the District Court and allowed Officer Valerie Montone and male co-plaintiffs to bring political retaliation/first amendment claims to trial when the City froze all promotions to lieutenant despite a lieutenant shortage.  The court concluded that a group of male co-plaintiffs eligible for promotion also had valid claims, even though they weren’t the direct target of the alleged misconduct. [Read more...]

The Ebb and Flow of First Amendment Arbitration Decisions

By Anthony Rice

Arb DecisionsThis article demonstrates how arbitrators might view similar free speech claims differently. In Elko County, a sergeant’s discussion about the sheriff’s proposed staff reorganization was allowed to circumvent the chain of command since the speech was protected by the First Amendment. However, in City of Wapakoneta, a fire captain’s speech was required to go up the chain of command because the speech was not protected.

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Federal Fourth Circuit Holds Firefighter’s Protected Speech Does Not Protect against Unrelated Violations of County Policy

By Anthony Rice

Megaphone ]In Minnick v. County of Currituck, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a firefighter’s First Amendment claim because there was no link between his speech and the “adverse employment action.” Although Firefighter Minnick had attempted to organize a union and had engaged in arguably protected speech by complaining about equipment and safety issues, the court found no proof that his speech was a “substantial factor” in his forced transfer and later discharge. [Read more...]

Social Network Regulation, Part I: The Competing Interest of Departments and the Constitutional Rights of Their Employees

By Jim Cline

3d Man ComputerAs we all know, “social media” are becoming prevalent. The ubiquity of the Internet and the rapid expansion of other social media such as Twitter and social media pages such as Facebook, create opportunities for communication of astonishing proportions. With that ability to communicate on a larger stage comes one very directly associated problem — the ability to say something incredibly stupid to a much greater number of people on that “larger stage.” Or as one law enforcement blogger described the problem — police agencies now need to develop policies to address the problems associated with “when stupid strikes.”

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An FBI Linguist’s Speech That is Not a Matter of Public Concern May Come with a Price

By Anthony Rice

Free SpeechIn Pubentz, an FBI linguist’s First Amendment retaliation claim failed because the linguist’s comments, made during a work presentation at the Chicago FBI Office, were not made as a citizen on a matter of public concern. Moreover, even if the speech was made as a citizen and on a matter of public concern, the court held the government’s interest would outweigh the linguist’s in this scenario.

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