Chrzanowski v. Bianchi

From 2006 until he was fired in 2011, Chrzanowski was an assistant state’s attorney. In 2011, a special prosecutor began investigating Chrzanowski’s boss, Bianchi. Bianchi allegedly had improperly influenced cases involving his relatives and political allies. Under subpoena, Chrzanowski testified before a grand jury, and later, again under subpoena, he testified at Bianchi’s trial. A few months later, Chrzanowski was interrogated by Bianchi and fired. Chrzanowski believed that the firing was retaliation for his testimony and filed suit, alleging violation of his First Amendment rights and state statutes. The district court dismissed the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, finding that First Amendment protections did not apply because the testimony was “pursuant to [his] official duties” and, in the alternative, that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, because any First Amendment protections were not “clearly established” at the time. The Seventh Circuit reversed. When Chrzanowski spoke out about his supervisors’ potential or actual wrongdoing, he was speaking outside the duties of employment. Providing eyewitness testimony regarding potential wrongdoing was never part of what Chrzanowski was employed to do; his rights were clearly established at all relevant times. Unlike restrictions on speech made pursuant to official duties, punishment for subpoenaed testimony chills civic discourse “in significant and pernicious ways.” View "Chrzanowski v. Bianchi" on Justia Law