Brian Bresnahan v. City of St. Peters, No. 21-3910 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff alleged that Police officers in the St. Peters Police Department created a text messaging group to update each other about local Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. Although the text group was intended for official purposes, specifically for officers to share up-to-date information about local BLM protests, they also shared “unrelated” content. Plaintiff sent the group a video from an animated sitcom called “Paradise PD.” It showed a black police officer who accidentally shot himself with a media headline stating, “another innocent black man shot by a cop.” According to Plaintiff, the video was satire and a parody of the BLM protests. The next morning, the Police Chief berated Plaintiff, ordered him to resign, and told him that if he refused, Plaintiff would open an investigation and recommend to City Administrator that Plaintiff be fired. Plaintiff resigned and filed a lawsuit under Section 1983, alleging that he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. Defendants moved to dismiss, and the district court granted their motion.
The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court reasoned that based on the allegations in the complaint, the group text was used to send both work-related and unrelated messages, and Plaintiff’s video was such an unrelated message. The court explained that while Plaintiff has met the threshold showing required to advance his First Amendment claim, the court expressed no opinion on the merits of that claim.