Government lawyers, take heart. Unless you’re a supervisor.
Today the Ninth Circuit refused to toss a claim brought by a Los Angeles deputy district attorney against his bosses for violating his free speech rights. The prosecutor, David Eng, claims his bosses retaliated against him for speaking out about nefarious goings-on in the office. You can find the eminently readable allegations in the ruling.
The panel, led by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, found (.pdf) that District Attorney Steve Cooley and his managers did not enjoy qualified immunity, and allowed the case to go to trial. At the time he was battling the bosses, Eng had hired Los Angeles attorney Mark Gerragos to defend him, and Gerragos gave an interview to the LA Times accusing Cooley et al of shady dealings. The county tried to argue that Eng couldn’t sue on account of Gerragos’ words, but Hawkins would have none of it.
Eng’s current lawyer, D. Jay Ritt of Bensinger, Ritt, Tai & Thvedt in Pasadena, was extremely pleased with the ruling.
“This case has gotta make any public employee feel better about knowing that if they engage in citizen speech on matters of public concern, they will be protected against retaliation their employer might engage in improperly,” he said.
The government’s lawyer, Jin Suk Choi of Franscell, Strickland, Roberts & Lawrence, didn’t return a call.
— Dan Levine