1ST Circuit Court of Appeals – MARK GILBERT v. CITY OF CHICOPEE et al

In this case (Case No. 17-2206, February 8,2019) the Plaintiff, a Captain in the Chicopee Police Department, brought suit against the City of Chicopee et al under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging retaliation for exercising his right of free speech protected by the First Amendment. He claimed that his speech was in his capacity as citizen, not in any official capacity.  His case dismissed by the District Court (Justice Ponsor).  The District Court’s decision was here affirmed by the Circuit Court “with costs to appellees”.

In its decision, the First Circuit stated that “[t]his is not a case where Plaintiff wrote a letter or spoke out at a public meeting. Exactly what Plaintiff said, and when, is left very vague.”  The Court went on to say: “Our de novo review of Gilbert’s First Amendment claim is handcuffed by the lack of specificity regarding exactly what speech underlies his claim. Gilbert’s complaint muddlingly sketches a litany of occasions spanning years during which he griped to superiors and investigators, orally and in writing, about the professional behavior of his colleagues or public officials. …However, whether we view Gilbert’s complaint as encompassing one or multiple events of speaking out, the result is the same.”  The Court concluded that Gilbert failed to state a First Amendment claim.

“Because Gilbert’s claim founders at the first prong of the Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006)] inquiry — that is, whether Gilbert ‘spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern’ — we decline to reach the second and third prongs. …”

Click here to read the full text of the Court’s decision, which concludes with some flair:  “We affirm, over and out.”

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