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Turner v. City & County of San Francisco

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 11, 2015

PETER TURNER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO; SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS; ED REISKIN; BRUCE STORRS, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California January 15, 2015.

Page 1207

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:11-cv-01427-EMC. Edward M. Chen, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action against the City and County of San Francisco by a former employee who alleged that he was wrongfully discharged in retaliation for engaging in protected speech. Plaintiff alleged that statements he made to his supervisors regarding the alleged unlawful hiring and use of temporary exempt employees in contravention of the San Francisco Charter were related to a matter of " public concern," and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

The panel determined that plaintiff's complaints, while potentially significant in their implication, arose primarily out of concerns for his own professional advancement, and his dissatisfaction with his status as a temporary employee. The panel noted that plaintiff voiced his grievances internally, at union meetings, to his supervisor, and to Human Resources, and they were specifically related to the conditions of his employment. The panel concluded that plaintiff did not engage in protected speech under the First Amendment when he complained to his supervisors about the City's hiring and use of temporary exempt employees.

G. Whitney Leigh (argued), Gonzalez & Leigh LLP, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Jonathan Rolnick (argued), Dennis J. Herrera, and Elizabeth Salveson, City Attorney's Office, San Francisco, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: J. Clifford Wallace, Milan D. Smith, Jr. and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1208

Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judge:

Peter Turner, a former " temporary exempt employee" of the City and County of San Francisco (the City), appeals the dismissal with prejudice of his claims against the City for wrongful discharge. Turner contends that the district court improperly dismissed his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the City retaliated against him for engaging in protected speech, in violation of the First Amendment. Specifically, he contends that the statements he made to his supervisors regarding the alleged unlawful hiring and use of temporary exempt employees in contravention of the San Francisco Charter (Charter) were related to a matter of " public concern," and were therefore protected by the First Amendment.

After permitting Turner to amend his complaint five times, the district court properly concluded that he had failed to state a claim under the First Amendment. Turner's communications were focused on, and driven by, a private grievance about his specific employment ...


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