Internal Workings of Government Office is Matter of Public Concern

A prison guard broke the wall of silence, he was harassed, and then constructively discharged. He brought a section 1983 action, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for engaging in protected speech. As a public employee, should his speech be balanced under Pickering and Connick? No. Baron v. Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, No. 03-2718 (1st Cir. Mar. 29, 2005).

The distict court determined at summary judgment that "the internal workings of the Sheriff's Department" were a matter of inherent public concern, and thus found that Baron's speech was protected without engaging in an extended analysis of its form and context. The Department takes issue with this conclusion, arguing that the content of Baron's expression was not a matter of inherent public concern because it dealt exclusively with internal working conditions at the House of Correction. We disagree.

Slip op. at 12-13. The panel distinguished Connick, writing:

Retaliation against officers who breach a code of silence among their colleagues at a county House of Correction implicates the public interest in a way that morale among Assistant District Attorneys does not.

Id. at *15. Thus, the plaintiff's free speech rights need not be balanced against the state's interest in maintaing order and discipline.

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