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Monday, July 20, 2015

County Prosecutor Who Blogs About Political Matters Is Not Acting Under Color of State Law

John Patrick Frey, a prosecutor in Los Angeles County authored a blog called Patterico's Pontifications, where he posted about criminal law and politics. His blog included a disclaimer that his views were his own and were not made in any official manner. After Frey posted a number of stories about Nadia Naffe (a political activist) calling her a liar, illiterate, and dishonest, among other things, Naffe filed a lawsuit against Frey and the County, alleging that his blog posts violated her civil rights.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that Frey did not act “under color of state law.” Naffe appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the district court that Frey was not acting in any official capacity when he blogged about Naffe. First, the Court noted that Frey’s job as a prosecutor did not include commenting on politics, so he was not exercising his official duties when he blogged about Naffe. Second, his blog included a disclaimer that he was speaking personally, and not as a district attorney.  As a result, Naffe’s civil rights claims could not proceed against Frey, since he was not acting in his official capacity when he blogged about Naffe.  Naffe v.Frey, No.  13-55666 (9th Cir. June 15,2015). 

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