In Brennan v. Township of Fairfield, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey addressed an important topic for public safety officers, freedom of speech. In this case, Plaintiff, a police officer, alleged he was retaliated against for distributing a memorandum on police letterhead to the Mayor and Township Council. The memorandum contained the officer’s reasons for having issued two motor vehicle summonses to a township administrator.
Defendants moved for summary judgment of plaintiff’s claim. The Court granted the motion because Plaintiff’s speech was made pursuant to his duties as a police officer. Therefore, his speech was not protected by the First Amendment. In addition to seeking summary judgment, Defendants also moved for sanctions against Plaintiff for the assertion of a claim which Plaintiff later withdrew. The Court denied this motion along with Defendants’ other motions to disqualify counsel and to compel mediation.
This case, although very brief, illustrates how one’s freedom of speech can be limited based on the context in which the speech is offered. Speech made pursuant to one’s duties as a public safety officer will not be protected by the First Amendment, thereby negating support of a retaliation claim. As a result, it is important for public safety officers to be cognizant of the distinction between speech made pursuant to their employment from all other forms.