Lewis German v. Bethesda Fire Department et al.

Lewis German, former Deputy Chief of the Bethesda Fire Department, brought this civil action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against the Bethesda Fire Department, Virginia Miller in her capacity as President of the Bethesda Fire Department and Dennis Urban as former Chief of the Bethesda Fire Department. The action arises out of the defendants’ decision to terminate Mr. German in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Mr. German participated in interviews, in his private capacity, with members of the local media regarding concerns that Montgomery County had not fully implemented preparations to “fit-test” and distribute 150 biological/chemical hazard suits assigned to county fire departments.

Mr. German raised several claims, including: 1) wrongful discharge in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech on a matter of public concern; 2) wrongful discharge in violation of applicable regulations, by-laws and statutes; 3) tortious violation of Mr. German’s free speech rights under the First Amendment; and 4) deprivation of Mr. German’s First Amendment rights by way of the proposed imposition of a gag order as a condition of continued employment.

On April 17, 2008, District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte denied both the defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Mr. German’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Judge Messitte did rule though that the proposal put forward by the defendants’ as a condition of Mr. German’s continued employment, that he be precluded from speaking to the media on fire department-related issues, was facially unconstitutional.

A trial date had been set for April 2008 but the parties settled the dispute for $259,000. This case is listed as Civil Action No. 05-494 (PJM).

Case Files

Transcript of Hearing on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (April 17, 2008)

Mark S. Zaid, P.C.

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