From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
A Nevada Highway Patrol policy against officers discussing its canine program with anyone outside the department violates the officers’ free speech rights, a federal appeals court ruled ( Moonin v. Tice , 2017 BL 293545, 9th Cir., No. 15-16571, 8/22/17 ).
The ruling explains that government employees generally retain their First Amendment rights to speak on topics of public concern. Disclosures by government personnel have received elevated attention in recent months as the Trump administration battles alleged leaks by federal employees.
“This opinion ensures employees they’re going to have First Amendment protection if they expose governmental malfeasance and misconduct,” Ken McKenna, a Reno-based attorney who represented the patrol officers challenging the policy, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 22. “We want people to expose bad governmental behavior.”
Representatives for the Highway Patrol and the Nevada attorney general’s office, which represented the police agency, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Aug. 22.
The policy prohibiting “communication with ANY non-departmental and non-law enforcement entity or persons” was too broad to pass constitutional muster. The Highway Patrol has a legitimate interest in keeping certain information private, but the agency failed to demonstrate any past or anticipated disruptions that would justify such a sweeping prohibition, Judge Marsha S. Berzon wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judges Mary Murguia and Frederic Block joined the Aug. 22 opinion.
Officer Matt Moonin said the policy prevented him from discussing concerns such as misuse of public funds and search-and-seizure violations. A second officer who challenged the policy with Moonin, Donn Yarnall, died while the case was litigated. A third, Erik Lee, left the force.
“It was the attempt to shut down the public’s right to know,” McKenna said. “That is the important part of the case. Not for my client but for us, the people that live in democracy. You can’t curtail somebody’s right to inform the public.”
The Highway Patrol contended in a brief that Moonin didn’t believe the policy prohibited all public speech as broadly as he alleged because he spoke out on a protected basis several times after it was put into place. There were some circumstances when his speech shouldn’t have been seen as protected because of the agency’s overriding interest in operating efficiently, it said.
The case returns to a trial court so a jury can determine the amount of damages, McKenna said. A judge already ruled for the officers on whether the highway patrol violated their First Amendment rights, the attorney said.
Joseph Tartakovsky, a Nevada deputy solicitor general in Carson City; Cameron Vandenberg, a supervising senior deputy attorney general in Reno; and Brandon Price, a deputy attorney general in Reno, represented the highway patrol.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at email@example.com
Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Matt_Moonin_et_al_v_Kevin_Tice_et_al_Docket_No_1516571_9th_Cir_Au?doc_id=X1Q6NT39TH82.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)