from Capparelli Rove v. P.D. From ed.decided by Judge John Robert Blakey (N.D. Illinois) on Wednesday:
In the spring of 2022, plaintiff Elizabeth Capparelli Ruff, who served on the East Aurora School District 131 Board of Education, launched a campaign for regional superintendent of schools in Will County. To raise money for her campaign, she announced a gun raffle on Facebook. Grand prize? – Beretta Luger 9mm. According to the complaint, the board learned of the Facebook post and fired the plaintiff without warning, just days after her contract was renewed.
The court held that plaintiff had sufficiently asserted, among other things, a breach of contract claim and a First Amendment retaliation claim:
According to the defendants, “Plaintiff’s social media post was not a matter of public concern protected by the First Amendment,” but was instead “related to raising money for her private interests,” “related to her personal campaign to find another job.” Perhaps every politician’s run for elected office constitutes, to some extent, a “campaign to find another job.” But the speaker’s own interest does not preclude the possibility of the speech also Touches a matter of public interest – the defendants’ argument will only be of merit if they can show that the plaintiff’s letter was true Purely Private matter.
Here, the complaint alleges that the Facebook post was a fundraising effort for Plaintiff’s political campaign for the Will County Regional Superintendent of Schools. Defendants have provided no basis for distinguishing Plaintiff’s speech from other campaign-related speech, which generally meets the “public interest” standard.
Defendants also argue that, even if Plaintiff’s speech addressed a matter of public concern, it would still not be protected by the First Amendment because, as a matter of law, Plaintiff’s interests in free speech outweighed the Board’s interests in promoting an “effective and disruptive system.” “Free workplace.”…
The defendants ask the court to take judicial notice of world events occurring at the time of plaintiff’s publication—specifically, the massacre of 19 children in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022—and to find, as a matter of law, that The plaintiff’s Facebook post “could hamper the efficiency of a school district’s ability to provide an uninterrupted learning environment during a time of national mourning.” On this basis, Defendants point out that “a disturbance-free school environment outweighs any purported constitutional right that Plaintiff possesses.”
At present, the court must take the plaintiff’s allegations as true and draw all conclusions in favor of the plaintiff. The defendants’ argument, which attempts to draw an unspecified connection between a legal gun recall hosted on social media and tragic and unlawful mass school shootings, remains based on many questionable conclusions drawn from Favor of the accused– If not based on rank speculation. The defendants’ argument on this point therefore does not provide a sufficient basis for dismissal, and the court defers further consideration of the case Pickering Balance test [for government employee speech, where the value of the speech is weighed against its disruption of government operations-EV] Until a later stage of this lawsuit, after the parties have developed the factual record. The plaintiff’s claim may proceed….
We note that General First Amendment rule Is that the government may not fire an employee based on the employee’s letter if
- The talk is about an issue of public concern And
- The speech is no Said by the employee as part of the employee’s job duties, Garcetti vs. Ceballos547 U.S. 410 (2006), And
- The harm that the speech causes to the efficiency of the government entity’s work does not outweigh the value of the speech to the employee and the public (so-called Pickering balance). Connick v. Myers(1983).