Bloomberg Law’s combination of innovative analytics, research tools and practical guidance provides you with everything you need to be a successful litigator.
An assistant public defender who was said to have spread rumors about his demotion can’t claim his free speech rights were violated when he was fired for the statements, the Third Circuit held June 29 ( De Ritis v. McGarrigle , 2017 BL 224767, 3d Cir., No. 16-1433, 6/29/17 .
First Amendment rights of public employees are tempered by the government’s need for “efficient provision of public services,” Judge Cheryl Ann Krause wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Joseph De Ritis’s speech would be protected only if he spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern and his employer didn’t have a good reason for treating him differently than the “general public,” the court said.
After De Ritis was removed from the office’s trial team and reassigned to the juvenile court unit, he alleged to judges, attorneys and government officials that he had been reassigned because his clients weren’t pleading guilty fast enough, according to statements cited in the appeals court decision.
De Ritis neglected to speak with his supervisor about his firing, the court said.
His conversations with judges and attorneys in the courthouse qualified as official communications that were part of his job duties and weren’t protected, it said.
A discussion with an attorney during a “Taco Tuesday” session after work wasn’t official, but it wasn’t a matter of public concern because De Ritis merely aired personal grievances, it said.
De Ritis’s talks with government officials were also more about his personal grievance than about whistleblowing, the court said.
Even though he seemed concerned about the rights of his clients when discussing his perceived demotion, he “remained focused” on how the demotion was damaging his career, it said.
Furthermore, these persistent, unverified comments were potentially disruptive to the public defender’s office, so his supervisor had a right to treat him differently from a member of the public and fire him, the court said.
Because De Ritis’s speech isn’t protected, his supervisor is entitled to qualified immunity for his decision to fire him, the court said.
The qualified immunity doctrine shields public officials from liability for civil damages as long as they haven’t violated clearly established rights.
Judges Thomas I. Vanaskie and Richard L. Nygaard joined the opinion.
De Ritis represented himself.
Holsten & Associates represented the county officials.
To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at firstname.lastname@example.org
Full text at http://src.bna.com/qny.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)