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:
- Whether a public employee’s truthful trial testimony is citizen speech protected by the First Amendment.
- 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.
- 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.