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Court Rules Ex-Sierra Madre Police Officer's Case Can Move Forward

A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel found Officer John Ellins can sue a former Sierra Madre police chief but not the city itself.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled on Friday that an ex-Sierra Madre police officer can have his day in court.

In June 2003, Officer John Ellins sued the city as well as then police chief Marilyn Diaz, claiming Diaz refused him a pay raise as retaliation for leading a no-confidence vote against her while acting as a union leader. The union also had issued two press releases that severely criticized Diaz. Ellins served as head of the Sierra Madre Police Association from 2006 to 2010.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, Diaz said she was only awaiting the outcome of an internal affairs investigation to sign paperwork.

Diaz did sign the paperwork for Ellins' raise, which was retroactive, eventually; however, the court found the action did not undermine the law suit.

The case had been dismissed, but on Friday, the 9th circuit found that be cause Ellins' official duties did not include union activities, he was acting as a private citizen when he criticized Diaz, and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court that the police chief should have known "depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," the Times article said.

The three-member panel's decision to overtern the dismissal was unanimous, the Pasadena Sun reported; however, the "panel further held that the City of SIerra Madre was not liable for the allegedly retaliatory conduct," per the opinion Filed Friday.

Diaz retired in 2011 after serving five years in the position.

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