Excellent First Amendment whistleblower ruling from the Ninth Circuit

About a year ago, Public Citizen petitioned for rehearing in a case in which a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a First Amendment retaliation claim brought by a police officer who courageously spoke out after he witnessed the abuse of suspects within his department. In a welcome development this week, the Ninth Circuit, having agreed to rehear the case, ordered the claim reinstated in a thorough and thoughtful opinion that not only gets the law right but lays out helpful guideposts for future whistleblower claims under the First Amendment.

In particular, the court noted that an employee's speech is likely to be protected where he has gone outside the chain of command, violated orders from his superiors in speaking, or is discussing "broad concerns about corruption or systemic abuse" (as opposed to making a "routine report").

The court also overruled a previous decision that had practically foreclosed, as a categorical matter, a First Amendment retaliation claim brought by any California police officer.

You can read more about the case from the L.A. Times and from our press release.

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