Ellins v. City of Sierra Madre

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 03-22-2013
  • Case #: 11-55213
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Rawlinson; Circuit Judge Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

Leading a vote of no-confidence against the Chief of Police involved a matter of public concern, and the delay in pay increase constituted an adverse employment action.

John Ellins, police officer and union president, filed this lawsuit against the Chief of Police, Marilyn Diaz, and the City of Sierra Madre (“Defendants”) seeking damages and injunctive relief. Ellins argued that “[his] outspokenness, the vote of no confidence, and [his] union activities” caused Diaz to retaliate by delaying approval of his Advanced Peace Officer Standards and Training application. The district court granted the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that “Ellins had not satisfied his burden of establishing a prima facie claim of First Amendment retaliation.” The district court further held that Diaz was entitled to qualified immunity, and that the City” was not liable for the allegedly retaliatory conduct under a Monell theory of liability.” Reviewing de novo, the panel reversed with regard to Diaz and held that Ellins had introduced sufficient evidence to “create a genuine issue of material fact as to the first element of a First Amendment retaliation claim” because his speech involved a matter of public concern. The panel found that Ellins established sufficient evidence of an adverse employment action to defeat a grant of summary judgment, and that he introduced sufficient evidence of “both temporal proximity and Diaz’s opposition to his speech” to preclude summary judgment on the issue of “substantial or motivating factor.” The panel held that Diaz was not entitled to qualified immunity because she “acted unreasonably in light of clearly established law.” The panel affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the City of Sierra Madre because the city was not liable under Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. for Diaz’s actions, but reversed the grant of summary judgment to Diaz. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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