Dahlia v. Rodriguez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: 08-07-2012
  • Case #: 10-55978
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw for the Court; Circuit Judges Paez and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

A police officer’s speech alleging the use of abusive interrogation techniques is not protected as private speech under the First Amendment.

Angelo Dahlia, plaintiff, was a detective at the Burbank Police Department. Four days after reporting abusive interrogation techniques by his peers and superiors, Dahlia was placed on administrative leave by the defendant, Lieutenant Rodriguez. Dahlia filed a § 1983 complaint. Among several claims, he alleged that “retaliation against a public employee for speech disclosing police misconduct” is a violation of the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the claim, holding that Dahlia’s speech was made in the course of his public duty as a police officer and therefore not protected by the First Amendment. Further, it held that Dahlia’s placement on administrative leave did not constitute adverse employment action. The Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that the California case Huppert determines the scope of a police officer’s duties, and Dahlia’s speech fell within the scope of his employment. Importantly, the Court noted that, although it is bound by the Huppert case, Huppert was decided incorrectly and is in conflict with the Supreme Court’s stance on the scope of public speech. Finally, the Court disagreed with the lower court’s holding that Dahlia’s placement on administrative leave was not an adverse employment action. Placing Dahlia on administrative leave was “reasonably likely to deter [him] from engaging in [a] protected activity,” and therefore brought Rodriguez’s actions within the scope of an adverse employment action. AFFIRMED.

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