Garcetti v. Ceballos
547 U.S. 410 (2006)

Facts:

  • Ceballos was a deputy district attorney.
  • A defense attorney called and told him to look over a suspicious affidavit.
    • Ceballos did, and found that there were serious misrepresentations.
  • He relayed this to his supervisors and, in a memo, recommended dismissal of the case.
  • During a meeting with his supervisors and the warrant affiant, things got heated and a lieutenant criticized Ceballos.
    • Nonetheless, they proceeded with the prosecution.
  • Ceballos claimed that in the aftermath of these events he was subjected to a series of retaliatory employment actions:
    • Reassignment from his calendar deputy position to a trial deputy position;
    • Transfer to another courthouse; and
    • Denial of a promotion.
  • He then brought a 1983 claim.

History:

  • The District Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
  • The Court of Appeals reversed.
    • The memo constituted protected speech under the first amendment.

Issue:
Whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties.

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • An employee’s speech is protected when:

(1) It addresses a matter of public concern; and
(2) The employee’s interest in commenting on matters of public concern outweighs the government’s interest in promoting the efficiency of the services it performs.

  • Here, the court held that Ceballos wrote the memo pursuant to his official duties, thus, he wasn’t speaking as a citizen.
  • This case basically adds a subelement to element 1 – that you must be speaking as a citizen.

Rule: When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.