Published on: Friday, June 9, 2023

A dozen Philadelphia police officers take to Facebook and post offensive comments about protestors, refugees, police brutality, the LGBTQ community, transgender people, Muslims, families with incarcerated fathers, and more. Following media coverage, several officers are disciplined. A First Amendment violation? District court: Nope. Case dismissed. Third Circuit: Well, maybe, at least at the pleadings stage. The Pickering balancing test (the standard governing when public employees constitutionally can be disciplined for their speech) is pretty fact-intensive. On top of that, it's not actually clear which of the officers' (many, many) posts were the basis for the disciplinary proceedings. To discovery the case must go. Case undismissed. And to be clear, “This Court does not condone the Appellant officers’ use of social media to mock, disparage, and threaten the very communities that they are sworn to protect.”

The case is Fenico v. City of Philadelphia, No. 22-1326 (3d Cir. June 8, 2023).