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Reporting Corruption Not Protected By First Amendment

Detective John Butcher of Saginaw County, Michigan seized $22,583 in cash from Pierre Najjar during a narcotics investigation. When Najjar agreed to pay the Sheriff’s Department the money seized from him in lieu of entering formal civil forfeiture proceedings, Butcher delivered the money to Garrett DeWyse, the Department’s property and evidence room manager. A few weeks later, Butcher asked DeWyse to release $2,000 of the funds to pay for…

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Refusal To Amend Report Not Constitutionally Protected

Kelvin Lett was an investigator for Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a municipal office tasked with reviewing allegations of police misconduct. In 2016, Lett was working on an investigation into police involvement in a civilian shooting. The office’s Chief Administrator, Sharon Fairley, directed him to include in the report a finding that police officers had planted a gun on the victim of the shooting. Lett refused because he…

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The First Amendment v. Whistleblower Laws

In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the United States Supreme Court ruled that speech made as part of a public employee’s job has no First Amendment protection. However, the First Amendment is only one source of protection against improper discipline for engaging in speech. Protection against unfair discipline for speech can be found in the “just cause” provisions of collective bargaining agreements, in civil service laws, and…

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Q & A

From Florida Question: I’ve often heard from my union’s legal defense plan that we cannot go to arbitration for a written reprimand because the grievant has no “property loss” and that the arbitrator can’t rescind the written reprimand. Often our members feel like this is an excuse by the legal defense plan because the LDP doesn’t want to spend the money on the arbitration. While a written reprimand doesn’t…

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No-Confidence Votes A Risky Proposition In Non-Union States

Under the rule in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the First Amendment only protects the speech of public employees if they “speak as a citizen on a matter of public concern.” In a union environment, there is little question but that a no-confidence vote on the performance of a chief is protected speech, and is a matter of public concern. However, a very different result can be…

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Complaint About Chief’s Affairs Not Protected Speech

As a recent New Jersey case shows, the Garcetti rule marches on and is alive and well. In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the Supreme Court held that if a public employee engages in speech (e.g., writes or says something) as part of the job, the First Amendment gives the employee no protection, and the employer is free to retaliate against the employee even if the speech…

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