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Appeals Court Dismisses Claims DC Officers Were Punished For Being Whistleblowers

12:25 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Office of the Attorney General in D.C. says the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed the claims by the Fraternal Order of Police and 9 current and former Metropolitan Police Department officers that they were disciplined because they were whistleblowers. 

The union and officers had sought a $15 million lawsuit, Freeman v. District of Columbia. The lawsuit came about in 2005 when the police department decided to deny the officers' requests to work during off-duty hours as security guards. 

Six of the seven claims originally brought by each plaintiff was dismissed before trial and 7 of 10 plaintiffs were dismissed outright. The remained three plaintiffs proceeded to trial on only one original claim.

According to the Office of the Attorney General in press release, "The jury returned a verdict in favor of the District in the case of two of these three plaintiffs, but awarded $12,665 in back pay and non-economic damages to plaintiff Sean McLaughlin. " In a ruling Thursday, however, the court "set aside a jury verdict of $12,000 obtained by one officer, affirmed jury verdicts and lower court rulings against all other claims by the officers, and set aside an award of more than $430,000 in attorneys' fees that the lower court had granted to the FOP lawyers."

The Court explained:

[Whistleblower statutes] do not institute a lottery scheme under which would-be whistleblowers receive protection for making unsupported accusations if they happen to be lucky and, for reasons unknown to them, the accusations turn out to be supportable after all. Rumor and suspicion do not provide an objectively reasonable foundation for an accusation of illegal government conduct.

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