The Los Angeles County district attorney can be held liable for retaliating against a prosecutor who reported his suspicions that a sheriff’s deputy had lied in a search warrant affidavit, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The Los Angeles Times says the court ruled in favor of Richard Ceballos, who charged that he had been demoted and denied a promotion for trying to expose misconduct.
The appellate panel ruled that Ceballos’ speech was protected by the 1st Amendment. The judges said the county did not have immunity from the lawsuit because “Ceballos’ speech addressed a matter of public concern” and “his interest in the speech outweighed the public employer’s interest in avoiding inefficiency and disruption.”
Ceballos said the ruling could make it easier for whistle-blowers to report misconduct. “Somebody had to stand up to the office,” which was being run by Gil Garcetti at the time, he told the Times. In the midst of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart corruption scandal, he said, the district attorney’s office was trying to silence a prosecutor wanting to expose corruption.