Ceballos worked for Garcetti
in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. He felt that a search
warrant in one of their cases contained errors and that it violated the
suspect's 4th Amendment
Cebellos mentioned his concerns
to Garcetti, but was unsatisfied. He wrote a memo about his concerns and
even went so far as to testify for the defense about the admissibility of
evidence gathered via the search warrant.
The Trial Court upheld the
Cebellos then claimed that he
was subjected to retaliation for his actions. He was denied a promotion
and was reassigned. He filed an employment grievance, and after that was
denied he sued.
Cebellos argued that the
retaliation was an unconstitutional infringement of his 1st
Amendment right to free speech.
The Trial Court found for
Garcetti and dismissed the case. Ceballos appealed.
The Trial Court found that because
Ceballos wrote his memo as part of his job duties, he was not entitled to
protection for the memo’s contents.
The Court also found that
even if Ceballos had a protected speech right in this context, the right
was not clearly established and so qualified immunity applied to his
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found
that the memo was protected speech because Ceballos was speaking "as
a citizen upon matters of public concern."
The US Supreme Court reversed
and found for Garcetti.
The US Supreme Court found
that the 1st Amendment
does not prevent employees from being disciplined for expressions they
make pursuant to their professional duties.
Basically, the Court found
that public employees are not speaking as citizens when they are
speaking on a matter of their employment. Therefore they do not have
the constitutional protections of a citizen.
This decision removed any
protections that whistleblowers might have under the 1st
Amendment. However, most
whistleblowers are protected by specific Statutes, and do not rely on