The transcripts revealed not only that Quon was using the pager for personal messages but that many of these messages were sexually explicit. Some were sent to his wife Jeriyln. But others were sent to a dispatcher, April Florio, at the department with whom Quon was having an affair, according to court documents.
Quon, his wife, his alleged girlfriend, and another officer, Steve Trujillo, responded to the release of the transcripts by filing a lawsuit in federal court claiming violation of their privacy by city officials.
At trial, a federal jury returned a verdict for the city. On appeal, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that Quon and the others all had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal messages sent on the city’s pager. The appeals court also ruled that the city engaged in an unreasonable search when officials requested transcripts of the pager communications from the service provider without first seeking permission from a sender or recipient of those messages.
In urging the high court to take up the case, lawyers for Ontario and its police department said the Ninth Circuit’s decision was a “sweeping, categorical extension of Fourth Amendment rights.”
Expanding privacy rights?
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling “hampers public agencies’ ability to monitor employees’ workplace electronic communications,” writes Los Angles lawyer Kent Richland in his brief on behalf of Ontario.