Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Don Owens, Deputy Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7767
dowens@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

David Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs
w. (202) 588-7742
drosen@citizen.org

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

Dec. 12, 2012

A Positive Step: 9th Circuit Vacates Ruling in California Police Whistleblower Case

Dahlia v. Rodriguez Set Dangerous Precedent, Chilled Police Officers’ First Amendment Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a move that could be good news for whistleblowers, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear a case involving a Burbank police officer who went public about the abuse of suspects by his fellow officers, Public Citizen said today. A Public Citizen attorney worked to secure the rehearing.

The case, Dahlia v Rodriguez, will be reheard in March 2013 by a panel of 11 9th Circuit judges. In August 2012, a three-judge panel had ruled that the First Amendment does not protect any California police officer who reports misconduct within his department. On behalf of the police officer, Public Citizen petitioned in August for a rehearing by a larger panel.

“Courageous police officers like Angelo Dahlia are in many circumstances the public’s best or even only available source of information about police corruption and abuse,” said Scott Michelman, an attorney for Public Citizen. “We are heartened that the court has chosen to rehear this important case to consider both the officer’s free speech rights and the critical role whistleblowers play in public oversight of government.”

Beginning in 2007, Dahlia witnessed fellow Burbank Police Department officers beating, threatening and choking suspects. After he complained within his department, officers threatened Dahlia himself. Shortly after Dahlia disclosed to another law enforcement agency and to his officers association the abuses he witnessed, he was placed on administrative leave and lost pay and a promotional opportunity. In response, Dahlia filed a lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment rights had been violated.

On Aug. 7 of this year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled that Dahlia was not protected by the First Amendment because reporting misconduct is part of his job as a police officer.

In the petition asking for the case to be heard by an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, Dahlia’s attorneys argued that the scope of a police officer’s job duties and what speech is protected should be determined on a case-by-case basis. They argued that if the panel’s decision were allowed to stand, police officers would not be protected when speaking out about misconduct by fellow officers – and so no officer would speak out.

Attorneys at the firm Lackie, Dammeier & McGill of Upland, Calif., brought the case and are co-counsel with Public Citizen at this stage.

To read the petition, please visit http://www.citizen.org/litigation/forms/cases/getlinkforcase.cfm?cID=773.
 

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

You can support the fight for greater government and corporate accountability through a donation to either Public Citizen, Inc., or Public Citizen Foundation, Inc.

Public Citizen lobbies Congress and federal agencies to advance Public Citizen’s mission of advancing government and corporate accountability. When you make a contribution to Public Citizen, you become a member of Public Citizen, showing your support and entitling you to benefits such as Public Citizen News. Contributions to Public Citizen are not tax-deductible.

Public Citizen Foundation focuses on research, public education, and litigation in support of our mission. By law, the Foundation can engage in only very limited lobbying. Contributions to Public Citizen Foundation are tax-deductible.