The U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, has sided with the city of Colorado Springs against a sassy nurse who lipped off to a police officer.
In a ruling filed Thursday, the court affirmed the Fourth Judicial District Court's dismissal of the nurse's lawsuit saying her comment wasn't protected by the First Amendment.
Her First Amendment rights would have been violated, the court ruled, if her statement to the officer was on a matter of public concern. But it wasn't, the court found.
According to the decision, Miriam Leverington worked as a cardian nurse at city-owned Memorial Health System from Nov. 14, 2007, to Dec. 23, 2008.
On Dec. 17, 2008, Leverington was pulled over by Officer Duaine Peters at or near the North Nevada Avenue exit off Interstate 25.
Peters issued the nurse a speeding ticket and reported that during the stop their conversation "became less than cordial," according to the appeals court decision.
After Peters gave her the ticket, Leverington "told him that she hoped she never had him as a patient."
Peters replied, "I hope not too, because maybe I'll call your supervisor and tell her you threatened me." After Leverington stated she was not threatening him, Peters told her not to make comments like that, "because I don't appreciate it whatsoever, and that is very, very unprofessional on your part. I will be calling your supervisor."
Within five days, Peters contacted Leverington's supervisor, and on Dec. 22, 2008, Memorial's chief human resources officer Carlene Crall ordered her dismissal.
On Nov. 12, 2009, the District Court granted the city's motion to dismiss, concluding that "[t]here is no authority to support a claim that such a single statement in that context can be considered protected speech."
So here's the takeaway: If you work for the city, don't get smart-mouthed with a police officer.
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