LOCATION:New Orleans District Attorney’s Office
DOCKET NO.: 81-1251
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
CITATION: 461 US 138 (1983)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1982
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1983
GRANTED: Mar 08, 1982
George M. Strickler, Jr. – on behalf of the Respondent
William F. Wessel – on behalf of the Petitioner
Facts of the case
Sheila Meyers worked as an Assistant District Attorney for just over five years when her boss transferred her to a different section of the criminal court. Meyers strongly opposed this transfer, and made her feelings known to several supervisors, including District Attorney Harry Connick. Before the official transfer took place, Meyers prepared a questionnaire asking for her co-workers views on the transfer policy, office morale, and the level of confidence in supervisors. When Connick learned of the questionnaire, he immediately terminated Meyers. He said he fired her because she refused to accept her transfer. He also said that distributing the questionnaire was insubordination. Meyers sued, alleging that her termination violated her First Amendment right to free speech. The district court ruled in favor of Meyers and ordered her reinstatement, payment of back pay, damages, and attorney fees. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed.
Is the questionnaire that Meyers distributed constitutionally-protected speech?
Media for Connick v. Myers
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 20, 1983 in Connick v. Myers
Byron R. White:
The second case is a Connick against Myers which is here from the Fifth Circuit Court of — Court of Appeals.
The petitioner, Myers is an Assistant — was an Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans.
And one day — one day she circulated a — a questionnaire in the office among her — to her colleagues asking what they thought about the office’s transfer policy, asking how office morale was and their opinion, and asking whether — what degree of confidence they had in their superiors.
And also, whether they felt that they were under some pressure to perform political duties.
When petitioner, Connick, the District Attorney heard about this, he thought it was an act of insubordination and discharged Myers.
She then filed suit, claiming that her discharge violated her First Amendment rights.
The District Court and the Court of Appeals agreed with her and ordered to — her reinstatement with backpay.
We granted certiorari and we reverse that judgment.
In our view, Myers’ First Amendment rights were not violated and our reasons for thinking so were stated in an opinion which we have filed with the clerk.
Justice Brennan joined by Justices Marshall, Blackmun and Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.