In May 2006, LBAC successfully convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of the County of Los Angeles, and reverse the Ninth Circuit in Ceballos v. Garcetti. Ceballos, an employee of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, brought suit under § 1983, alleging that County employees retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Ceballos alleged that he was retaliated against for a memorandum he drafted arguing that an affidavit police used to obtain a critical search warrant was inaccurate.
LBAC and the County prevailed in the preliminary stages of the case after the District Court granted the County’s summary judgment motion, finding no protected First Amendment speech interest in the memorandum because Ceballos wrote it in a purely job-related capacity, pursuant to his employment duties. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the memorandum was entitled to First Amendment protection because it was on a matter of public concern, and found that Ceballos’ speech interests outweighed the government’s interests in promoting workplace efficiency and avoiding workplace disruption.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted LBAC’s petition for certiorari. The case was argued twice before the Supreme Court, first while former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was on the bench and again after Justice Samuel Alito Jr. took her place. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision, holding that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes and thus the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline. See Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S. Ct. 1951 (2006). This Supreme Court victory has positive and far-reaching implications for all of LBAC’s clients!