Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Andrew v. Clark (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(Approved for Publication)

Issued February 5, 2007 -- Opinion of Judge Andre M. Davis. Approved for publication.

Plaintiff served as a Major in the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) and was the Commanding Officer of the Eastern District of the BCPD at times relevant. After a barricade incident, Plaintiff prepared and distributed to his chain of command an "internal memorandum" criticizing the BCPD's handling of that incident. Receiving no response from his chain of command, Plaintiff released a copy of the internal memorandum to a Baltimore Sun reporter. Internal Affairs investigated the release and Plaintiff was subsequently fired.

Plaintiff filed and subsequently moved to amend a complaint in U.S. District Court alleging multiple state and federal counts against then Police Commissioner Kevin Clark and other parties. The complaint as amended alleged inter alia that Defendants' firing of Plaintiff:

1. violated the procedural due process requirements under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and 14 U.S. Sec. 1983 of the United States Code, as amended, due to the defendants' failure to provide either:

a. an adjudicatory hearing; or

b. a demotion to a civil service position at which a hearing would ostensibly apply under the Maryland Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights ("LEOBR"); and further

2. violated Plaintiff's right to freedom of speech with respect to the preparation and release of the internal memorandum.

Defendants moved under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss all federal counts from the complaint.

The U.S. District Court held that Plaintiff acted in his capacity as a agent of the BCPD in preparing and distributing the internal memorandum, and accordingly had no such protected freedom of speech rights in that professional capacity under the First Amendment as would trump the BCPD's power to discipline or fire an employee. It held further that Defendant had not violated any of Plaintiff's procedural due process rights, as Plaintiff had no "property' right in his as an at-will employee under Maryland law, and thus no federal constitutional provision protected him from the deprivation of that "property". The Court also held that while state law may entertain a right of Plaintiff to be demoted to a protected, civil service rank as an intermediate discipline in lieu of termination, no constitutional principles commanded such a right.

Accordingly, the U.S District Court dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) all federal claims in the complaint with prejudice and all non-diversity of citizenship state law claims without prejudice.

The Memorandum Opinion may be read here in PDF.

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