Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Lane v. Franks

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: January 17, 2014
Case #: 13-483
Court Below: 523 Fed. Appx. 709 (11th Cir. 2013)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/unpub/ops/201216192.pdf

Employment Law: (1) Whether the government, under the First Amendment, may retaliate against a public employee for giving testimony which was not a part of the employee’s ordinary job responsibilities; and (2) whether damages are precluded in a qualified immunity claim.

Petitioner, an employee of Central Alabama Community College, audited the Community Intensive Training for Youth (CITY) Program’s finances. Petitioner discovered that Suzanne Schmitz was receiving pay, but was not doing any work for the program. Petitioner terminated Schmitz’s employment and the FBI began investigating Schmitz for fraud. Petitioner testified, pursuant to a subpoena, before a federal grand jury. Subsequently, Respondent issued termination letters to Petitioner and 28 other CITY employees. Respondent then rescinded all except two of the termination letters, one of the two being Petitioner’s.

Petitioner sued and alleged that Respondent did not rescind termination in retaliation for testimony. The Court of Appeals held that Petitioner was testifying in his official capacity, and thus had no claim for retaliation, because the First Amendment only protects speech on matters of public concern.

Petitioner argues that the Court of Appeals erred because its decision directly conflicts with other 11th Circuit decisions regarding public employee’s speech and sworn testimony. In addition, the decision conflicts with precedents from the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide (1) whether the government, under the First Amendment, may retaliate against a public employee for giving testimony which was not a part of the employee’s ordinary job responsibilities; and (2) whether damages are precluded in a qualified immunity claim.