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Flipping v. Reilly

First Amendment: Employee Speech

Robert Reilly, an Atlantic City police officer for twenty-five years, was forced into retirement ostensibly because he created a hostile work environment. The neutral hearing officer only recommended a four-day suspension, and Reilly maintains that the much more severe penalty he received was retaliation for his earlier testimony in a police-corruption trial. The Third Circuit held that Reilly’s testimony was protected by the First Amendment under Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), The questions presented were:

  1. Whether a public employee’s truthful trial testimony is citizen speech protected by the First Amendment.
  2. Whether the Third Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity on the ground that it is clearly established that retaliation for truthful trial testimony violates the First Amendment.
  3. Whether the Third Circuit erred by declining to resolve a fact dispute as to whether Petitioners would have treated the respondent the same way absent his protected conduct.

Michael Kirkpatrick and Leah Nicholls were co-counsel for the respondents at the cert stage, and the Supreme Court denied cert.