Federal District Court Finds Skagit County Deputy Has Valid First Amendment Claim After Being Terminated Following His Support of Opposing Sheriff Candidate But Dismisses Charge Based on Unsuccessful Arbitration Case

 freedom of speechBy: Erica Shelley Nelson and Sarah Burke

In Plancich v. County of Skagit, a Skagit County deputy sheriff was discharged for abuse of authority after he participated in a traffic stop that recovered property stolen from his relatives. The deputy alleged that the investigation into this conduct was retaliation for his support of an opponent in a Sheriff’s election and filed a First Amendment claim. The Federal District Judge Robert Lasnick found that the deputy had a triable issue because the investigation and his support of the opposing candidate occurred closely together and the Department had a history of discriminatory treatment for officers who supported the losing Sheriff’s candidate. But the Court dismissed the First Amendment claim, accepting the  County’s argument that an intervening arbitration decision finding just cause for the discharge which also held that there was no retaliatory claim precluded the First Amendment lawsuit under the doctrine of “collateral estoppel.”

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Camden Police Officers Did Not Show Retaliation Because They Had Poor Performance And Officer Did Not Show Violation Of FMLA Rights Because He Was Not Denied Leave By Employer’s Actions

By Reba Weiss and Harrison Owens

Sick-note-large-400x266In Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1, et al. v. City of Camden, et al., a New Jersey District Court dismissed several officers’ claims that they had been retaliated against, and one officer’s claim that his FMLA rights had been denied by the City.  In their complaint, the officers claimed that several defendants had retaliated against them or interfered with their FMLA rights after they spoke out against a “directed patrol” policy.  The District Court dismissed all of their claims because the officers failed to show that their poor performance under the policy was not the primary reason for their transfers.  The Court also found that there was no evidence that the defendants denied one of the officers his rights under the FMLA or harmed him.

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Washington Court of Appeals finds Trial Court erred in Slapping down Lawsuit under Anti-SLAPP Statute

By Kasey Burton


In Spratt v. Toft, the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division I, held that the King County Superior Court erred in failing to consider whether or not a plaintiff is likely to prevail on his or her defamation claim before dismissing the suit under the Washington Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.

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Ninth Circuit Reaffirms First Amendment Right of Public Employees to be Free of Retaliation

By Mitchell Riese

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently clarified the rights that public employees have to not be retaliated against by a supervisor for testifying in a deposition in the context of a civil rights lawsuit. In the case of Karl v. City of Mountlake  Terrace, Martha Karl  filed suit against the City of Mountlake Terrace and Assistant Chief of Police Pete Caw.  Karl was the Confidential Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Police. In 2008, she was subpoenaed to give deposition testimony in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by former department Sgt. Jonathan Wender.  Wender had brought a lawsuit claiming that he had been fired because of his outspoken criticism of the “war on drugs.” During her deposition, Karl testified that the chief and assistant chief disapproved of Wender’s comments to the press and his outspoken views on the need for drug policy reform, and that Caw had urged the Chief to terminate Wender. Karl also testified that Wender had a reputation for honesty, the chief had a reputation for being dishonest, and Caw had a reputation as a “smooth talker” and “back stabber.” After Karl’s deposition, Caw was allegedly overheard saying that the police department would have to find a way to the “get rid of her.” [Read more…]