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Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri (09-1476) 
First amendment retaliation liability under the Petition Clause is limited to matters of public concern
Decided June 20, 2011 
[Opinion full text

The Borough dismissed Guarnieri from his job as police chief; Guarnieri filed a union grievance which led to an arbitration; Guarnieri prevailed and was reinstated to his position. Upon his return to work, the Borough issued eleven directives as to what Guarnieri must do or could not do on the job. Later, the Borough withheld $338 in overtime. Guarnieri sued and won a jury verdict on his claim that the directives and the withholding of overtime were in retaliation for filing and winning his grievance, in violation of the 1st amendment's "right ... to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The 3rd Circuit affirmed. 

The US Supreme Court vacated and remanded, holding that a  government employer's allegedly retaliatory actions against an employee do not give rise to liability under the Petition Clause unless the employee's petition relates to a matter of public concern. Suits under the Petition Clause are subject to the same "public concern" test as suits brought under the Speech Clause. 

Case below: Guarnieri v. Duryea Borough (3rd Cir 02/04/2010) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted October 12, 2010.
Oral argument:  March 22, 2011. [Transcript] [Audio

Question presented:   

Whether the Third Circuit erred in holding that state and local government employees may sue their employers for retaliation under the First Amendmentís Petition Clause when they petitioned the government on matters of purely private concern, contrary to decisions by all ten other federal circuits and four state supreme courts that have ruled on the issue.

Briefs on the merits: 

Certiorari Documents: 


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