The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former Burbank police detective that a federal three-judge appellate court panel dismissed in August.
Oral arguments in the case filed by Angelo Dahlia are set for March 18 in San Francisco, where an 11-judge panel will hear his claims that he was pushed out of the police department after he relayed alleged instances of misconduct made by fellow officers in the aftermath of a robbery in 2007.
The decision comes after the nonprofit group Public Citizen joined Dahlia’s attorneys in petitioning the full court for the hearing because the case involved whistleblowing and 1st Amendment rights for public employees.
“Courageous police officers like Angelo Dahlia are in many circumstances the public’s best or even only available source of information about police corruption and abuse,” Scott Michelman, an attorney for Public Citizen, said in a statement. “We are heartened that the court has chosen to rehear this important case to consider both the officer’s free speech rights and the critical role whistleblowers play in public oversight of government.”
Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano said she wasn’t surprised that the court decided to rehear the case.
The three-judge panel’s decision on the Dahlia case “really invited review by the whole en banc panel,” she said.
The three-judge panel that dismissed Dahlia’s case based its decision on the Huppert vs. City of Pittsburg ruling, in which an officer participated in a police corruption investigation and then notified the FBI.
With that decision, it was determined that Dahlia was not protected by the 1st Amendment because reporting police misconduct was his duty as an officer.
Dahlia claims he was harassed and intimidated after he witnessed his colleagues beat, choke and threaten a suspect with a gun in connection with a 2007 robbery at Porto's Bakery in Burbank.
After Dahlia was interviewed by internal affairs investigators, he alleges that some fellow officers threatened him.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators also interviewed Dahlia about the incident. Four days later, he was placed on administrative leave, according to his lawsuit.