United States Third Circuit

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Werkheiser v. Pocono Township, 13-3646

In this case involving First Amendment retaliation, plaintiff alleges that he was denied reappointment to his position as Roadmaster with the Township as a result of speech he expressed in his capacity as an elected official concerning the Board of Supervisors' overpayment for administrative duties. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that they were entitled to qualified immunity as to plaintiff's federal claim against them. The judgment of the district court denying defendants' motion to dismiss and finding that plaintiff had established a constitutional violation is vacated and remanded, where: 1) well-reasoned decisions on both sides render the law sufficiently unclear at the time of defendants' actions so as to shield them from liability; 2) the law was not clearly established that the kind of retaliation defendants engaged in against plaintiff violated his First Amendment rights; 3) elected officials who are retaliated against by their peers have limited recourse under the First Amendment when the actions taken against them do not interfere with the ability to perform their elected duties; and 4) it is debatable whether a reasonable official in defendants' position would have under that retaliating against plaintiff by denying him reappointment would violate his constitutional rights.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 03/06/2015
  • Published 03/06/2015

Judges

  • Cowen

Court

  • United States Third Circuit

Counsel