Harris County Sheriff's deputy alleges social media policy violates rights

By Andrea Dearden | Sep 23, 2014

A Harris County Sheriff's deputy alleges his First Amendment rights are being violated because of a recent social media policy put in place by his boss. 

Carl Pittman filed a lawsuit Aug. 8 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. 

According to the lawsuit, Garcia enacted a social media policy July 16 that would apply to Pittman and all other employees of the Harris Count Sheriff's Office. The policy alleges its purpose is to "place reasonable restrictions on the conduct of our employees and our appearances in person and in print, as well as holding all personnel to a greater standard of conduct, whether on or off duty." It also claims that social media communications by HCSO employees "must never conflict with our core values, our mission or our law enforcement code of ethics."

Pittman contends the policy prevents employees from engaging in negative speech about the HCSO or its personnel. He alleges this limits his ability to speak out as a citizen on matters of public concern whether that speech is damaging to the HCSO or not.

Pittman asks for an injunction to be placed on the HCSO's social media policy and seeks a judgment declaring the policy unconstitutional. He also asks to be reimbursed for attorney fees and court costs.

Edwin Sullivan, of Houston's Oberti Sullivan law firm, represents Pittman.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number: 4:14-CV-02376.

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt and it represents only one side of the story.

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