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Plaintiff Claims They Were Denied Due Process

In this case, Plaintiffs brought suit against the Defendants for: harassment, blackmailing and conspiring to boycott their classes and attempting to have them terminated from East Texas Police Academy (“ETPA”) in retaliation for their testimony in a case against another police officer involved in a shooting incident. Plaintiffs also claimed violations of: their rights to testify freely under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2); their right to freedom of speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendment; their right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment; and tortious interference with business relations. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the plaintiffs were instructors at the ETPA, in Kilgore, Texas, which provides basic and advanced training for law enforcement officers in the greater East Texas area. Defendants are the police chiefs or sheriffs from seven cities and counties within the greater East Texas area and who possess final authority over the training of the officers employed by their respective agencies.

Before the fall of 1998, Defendants enrolled their officers in ETPA courses on a regular basis, including courses taught by the Plaintiffs. The defendants were not contractually bound to continue using either the ETPA’s services or the services of Plaintiffs in particular. In August 1998, Plaintiffs voluntarily testified as expert witnesses against a police sniper from Kerrville, Texas who fatally shot a teenager. The said police officer was not trained at the ETPA nor belongs to the police agencies headed by the Defendants. In the said case, Plaintiffs testified that the Kerrville police officer used excessive force and that the Kerrville police department failed to implement the proper policies necessary to direct the conduct of officers acting as snipers.

The said testimony irked the Defendants and threatened the ETPA that they will all stop engaging their services for officer training. One of them said that Plaintiffs testimony “is in direct conflict with the basic fundamentals and expectations that we have come to enjoy from Academy instructors.” It created “conflicts of interest” and violated principles of “cooperative responsibility.” A Suffolk County Criminal Lawyer said they believe that an unacceptable conflict of interest exists whenever a police instructor testifies against a police officer, regardless of location and regardless of whether the instructor had trained the officer. Such a conflict does not exist when an instructor testifies for police officers.

Consequently, Defendants cancelled enrollments in the plaintiffs’ classes and barred their officers from enrolling in the plaintiffs’ courses in the future. The boycott began in October 1998, and by November 10, 1998, all of Plaintiffs’ basic classes had been dropped from the ETPA schedule, and their off-campus classes cancelled.

Jurisprudence dictates that “[t]he gist of the wrong at which § 1985(2) is directed is not deprivation of property, but intimidation or retaliation against witnesses in federal-court proceedings,” the loss of at-will employment can injure a plaintiff for purposes of the statute even though he or she lacks a property interest for purposes of the Due Process Clause.

There was sufficient evidence to show that the Defendants agreed to retaliate against Plaintiffs on account of their testimony against police officers in a federal case, and the retaliation took the form of interference with the Plaintiffs’ employment relationship, particularly by boycotting their classes and pressuring the ETPA to fire them. Coercing an employer to fire an employee is the classic case of interfering with employment relations. The Court held that the Defendants’ conduct was objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law, and the district court properly denied their motion for summary judgment with respect to the § 1985 claim.

With respect to the violations under the First Amendment, the district court emphasized that a First Amendment retaliation claim in the employment context has four elements: (1) the plaintiff suffered an adverse employment decision, (2) the plaintiff’s speech involved a matter of public concern, (3) the plaintiff’s interest in speaking outweighed the governmental defendant’s interest in promoting efficiency, and (4) the protected speech motivated the defendant’s conduct.

The Court held that the Defendants have not articulated any relevant, cognizable interests in suppressing the Plaintiffs’ speech, while the latter have presented a strong First Amendment interest in testifying about police brutality and inadequate supervision and training. The Plaintiffs’ interest in testifying easily outweighs the Defendants’ interest in suppressing their speech, given that the speech involved unrelated police agencies hundreds of miles away. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said to stop using a particular instructor or academy to penalize protected speech, Defendants must establish first why their need to suppress the speech outweighs the countervailing First Amendment interest in free expression.

With respect to Plaintiffs’ claim that they were denied due process, and their claim under state law for tortious interference with business relations, the Court reinstated Part IV.C of the panel opinion, which reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment on the due process claim, and also reinstated Part V of the panel opinion, which affirmed the district court’s denial of summary judgment on the state law claim.

Our New York Criminal Lawyers from Stephen Bilkis and Associates can assure you are afforded full protection and due process under the law, whether you have a federal case, or have been charged with drug possession or a theft crime. It has offices situated within New York Metropolitan area, including Corona, New York.

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