Thursday, November 16, 2017

Taking Educator's Free Speech to the Court of Appeals - Portelos v. Hill et al.

US Court of Appeals in NYC

Yesterday, our firm took a big case to the second highest court in the country. In short, teacher, parent and activist Francesco Portelos spoke up about what he saw was wrong in his neighborhood school. He was immediately retaliated against by his supervisors and higher up employees of the New york City Department of Education. We filed a lawsuit in June 2012 and ultimately had a federal trial in August 2016.

We believe the District Court judge erred in certain decisions and caused the jury to decide against Mr. Portelos. We believe Mr. Portelos' full case of cause and effect was not properly allowed before the jury.

We appealed shortly after and it is now up to the three judges of the Court of Appeals to decided if indeed errors were made and if it would change the outcome of the case.

The audio of our oral arguments can be found here 16-3932.

The 6 points of error we are arguing: 

1. Did the District Court err upon finding that Mr. Portelos’s speech at a United Federation of Teachers union meeting on January 26, 2012, and subsequent email to school union members, did not constitute protected speech under the First Amendment?
2. Did the District Court err by precluding the jury from considering testimony about the timing of Mr. Portelos’s anonymous complaint about Principal Hill’s timecard fraud on January 26, 2012, and testimony about her acknowledgement of Mr. Portelos’s speech on February 14, 2012, and through text messages given by Mr. Portelos to Principal Hill on January 30, 2012, which severely prejudiced Mr. Portelos’s retaliation theory before the jury?
3. Did the District Court err in granting partial summary judgment to the Defendants-Appellees by deeming all of Mr. Portelos’s School Leadership Team (SLT) related speech not constitutionally protected as a matter of law under the First Amendment and precluding the jury from considering any of this speech as a basis for retaliatory acts against Mr. Portelos?
4. Did the District Court err by precluding evidence before the jury of many other instances of speech by Mr. Portelos, including blog posts and media interviews, as not protected by the First Amendment?
5. Did the District Court err by dismissing Appellee New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) from the case just before closing arguments?
6. Did the District Court err by dismissing Appellee City of New York as a Defendant as part of the District Court’s decision on Defendants’ motion for summary judgment in precluding facts regarding the status of investigative cases by the New York City Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) from coming into evidence at trial before the jury?


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