Krisanne Hall v. Robert L. “Skip” Jarvis, Jr., State Attorney
Case no. 3:10-cv-00443-RBD-TEM
U. S. District Court, Middle District, Jacksonville Division
On July 5, 2011, we, KrisAnne Hall and Skip Jarvis, attended a court ordered mediation in an attempt to resolve the case without a court ruling or a jury verdict. We understand that the cost of defending this lawsuit is and remains substantial and is being funded by Florida taxpayers.
This case presents issues which are vitally important to the parties. These issues involve inherent conflicts which require careful balancing between the First Amendment rights of public employees and the acknowledged rights of public agencies to maintain the integrity and efficiency of their offices.
Ms. Hall strongly believes that she was exercising her right to free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and United States Supreme Court precedent when she spoke at certain political groups’ functions on issues she felt were of public concern that are subject to serious debate.
Mr. Jarvis strongly believes that he, as the elected State Attorney, had the authority to ask her to limit her speech because of complaints he was receiving about her speech and his belief that she was associating her ideas to the State Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial Circuit (“SAO”). He desired to preserve the essential perception of neutrality of his office while at the same time preventing potential negative impact on his office. Mr. Jarvis, therefore, believed that he gave Ms. Hall an option to remain a State prosecutor under such circumstances and that he was not infringing on her First Amendment rights, but was protecting the integrity of the SAO.
We both agree that government employees have an interest in commenting upon matters of public concern. We also agree that the SAO has an interest in promoting the efficiency of public services, such as prosecuting criminals, it performs through its employees. We further agree that the United States Supreme Court has recognized that a government employer, like the SAO, needs a significant degree of control over its employees’ words and actions and that when a private citizen enters government service, the citizen must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom.
The legal issues involved in this case are important to both parties, but we agree that the issues are complex and unpredictable in the courts. In an effort to avoid expending additional taxpayer dollars over this debate, the SAO has agreed to pay a portion of Ms. Hall’s reasonable attorney fees in exchange for Ms. Hall’s promise to voluntarily dismiss her lawsuit against the SAO and fulfill certain other obligations.