Ford v. City of Yakima: First Amendment Case Goes to Trial

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the City of Yakima and two of its police officers in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in which plaintiff alleged that the officers retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The officers are not entitled to Qualified Immunity, and plaintiff's claims can proceed to trial.

The panel held that plaintiff alleged facts, that officers booked and jailed him in retaliation for his protected speech, which established a violation of his clearly established First Amendment right to be free from police action motivated by retaliatory animus, even if probable cause existed for the officers initially to arrest plaintiff for violating the City noise ordinance. The panel concluded that at the time of plaintiff’s arrest, a reasonable police officer would have understood that he could not exercise his discretion to book an individual in retaliation for that individual’s First Amendment activity. The panel therefore determined that officers were not entitled to qualified immunity, and plaintiff’s claims should proceed to trial.

Plaintiff Ford is represented by NPAP member William Pickett.