American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - Matthews v. City of New York - Second Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
February 26, 2015
  Matthews v. City of New York - Second Circuit
Headline: Second Circuit Reinstates NYPD Officer's Suit Against New York City Alleging Retaliation for Complaints He Made About Precinct Arrest Quotas

Area of Law: First Amendment

Issue(s) Presented: Whether a New York City police officer's complaints about arrest quota policies within his precinct were made within his official capacity as a public employee and, therefore, were not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Brief Summary: Plaintiff-appellant, Craig Matthews, a New York Police Department officer, sued various New York City police department officials (the NYPD) alleging he faced retaliation in violation of the First Amendment for comments he made to his commanding officers about an arrest quota policy at his precinct. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the NYPD's motion for summary judgment, holding that Matthews' complaints were made as a public employee, not as a private citizen and, therefore, his speech was not protected by the First Amendment. The Second Circuit disagreed, holding that Matthew's comments were not made as part of his official duties but, instead, as a private citizen. Accordingly, the Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of New York City's motion for summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

The full text of the opinion can be found at:

Extended Summary (if applicable): Plaintiff-appellant Craig Matthews, an officer in the of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) 42nd Precinct, was unhappy about a precinct quota system, mandating arrests and stop-and-frisks and, in 2009, reported his concerns to his then-Captain. Thereafter, in 2011, Matthews met with his commanding officers to voice his concerns with the quota system.

In 2012, Matthews sued under 42 U.S.C. ยง1983, alleging that the NYPD violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for his outspoken opinions in the form of punitive assignments, denial of overtime and leave, separation from his career-long partner, humiliating treatment by supervisors, and negative performance reviews. The NYPD moved to dismiss, arguing that Matthews' speech was made pursuant to his official employment duties and therefore was not protected speech under the First Amendment. The district court, addressing just this narrow issue, granted the NYPD's motion to dismiss, agreeing that Matthews' speech was made as an employee of the NYPD, not as a private citizen.

The Second Circuit disagreed with the district court, concluding instead that Matthews' was speaking as a private citizen, vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court reasoned that Matthews' opinions about the quota policy were concerns about broad policy issues not related to his actual or functional job responsibilities. Additionally, the court noted that NYPD commanding officers are required to hold community council meetings at which the public is invited to raise concerns about policing practices. Accordingly, the court held that when a public employee, whose duties do not involve formulating, implementing, or providing feedback on a policy that implicates a matter of public concern, engages in speech concerning that policy, and does so in a manner in which ordinary citizens would be expected to engage, he or she speaks as a citizen, not as a public employee.

The full text of the opinion can be found at:

Panel (if known): Circuit Judges Walker and Hall; District Judge Murtha

Argument Date: 04/24/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 02/25/2015

Docket Number: No. 13-2915-cv

Decided: Vacated and Remanded

Case Alert Author: Jesse M. Kantor

Counsel: Christopher Dunn, (Erin Harrist, Arthur Eisenberg, Alexis Karterton, on the brief), New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, N.Y., for plaintiff-appellant.

Marta Ross, (Edward F.X. Hart, William S.J. Fraenkel, on the brief) for Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel for the City of New York, New York, N.Y., for defendant-appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Walker, Jr.

Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Elyse Diamond Moskowitz

    Posted By: Elyse Diamond @ 02/26/2015 09:05 PM     2nd Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top