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Calif. AG Attorney Loses First Amendment Claims

(CN) - The 9th Circuit dismissed the claims of an attorney for the California attorney general's office, who said her employer violated her First Amendment rights by threatening to fire her if she continued to represent an office paralegal.

Paula Gibson represented paralegal Annette Goode-Parker in a legal malpractice case without the permission of their employer. The office said Gibson would be fired if she didn't drop Goode-Parker as a client.

Gibson filed a grievance over the decision, which was affirmed twice by assistant attorneys general. They cited the potential for conflict of interest if Gibson continued to represent Goode-Parker.

The trial court claimed Gibson did not make valid First Amendment or breach of contract claims, and the 9th Circuit agreed.

"Because plaintiffs' speech here, filing a private malpractice action, does not qualify as an issue of public concern," Judge Graber wrote, "it is not constitutionally protected speech in the context of public employment."

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