Friday, June 25, 2010

Public Employee Threatening Life of Police Chief Justifiably Terminated

In Turner v. Lone Peak Public Safety District, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld the rather uncontroversial determination of a local government entity appeals board that an employee's threat to kill his boss, the police chief, justified his termination.  The fact that the employee was under the influence did not excuse the threat nor did the fact that the threat occurred in a private call with the employee's ex-wife.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two-Member NLRB Did Not Have Authority to Issue Decisions.

The United States Supreme Court ruled on June 17, 2010, in New Process Steel L.P. v. NLRB, that as of December 31, 2007, when there were no longer three members of the NLRB, the NLRB lacked authority to act as a Board.  In ruling as it did, the Court stated that it "was not insensitive to the Board's understandable desire to keep its doors open despite vacancies," but nonetheless ruled that "[i]f Congress wishes to allow the Board to decide cases with only two members, it can easily do so."

A Governmental Entity's Audit of Text Messages was Reasonable Despite Assumption that Text's were Private.

On Thursday, June 17, the United States Supreme Court upheld the discipline of a police officer for sending personal and some sexually explicit text messages on a city provided pager.  In Ontario v. Quon, the Supreme Court assumed without holding that the police officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages.  It did so given its explicit hesitancy to answer the question because of "[r]apid changes in the dynamics of communications and information transmission."  In any event, the Court concluded that despite the assumed privacy expectation, the City had reasonably searched the texts because (1) the stated basis for the search---to determine the reasonableness of the text character limitations---was justified at its inception, (2) the investigator had only reviewed the officer's texts sent while on duty, and (3) it was reasonable for the officer to expect that his texts would be subject to audit given his role as a police officer.