Monday, April 7, 2008

Split Noted: Do Volunteers Have Property Interests in Their Job?

Per Griffith v. Lanier, 2008 WL 900978, *6 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 4, 2008)

Plaintiffs are members of the District of Columbia Police Department’s Reserve Corps, a group of unpaid volunteers who assist the full-time policemen. In 2006, the Department issued regulations providing, in relevant part, that reservists could be dismissed at will. Plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that this regulation deprived them of a statutorily-conferred property interest in continued volunteer service. The district court granted summary judgment for the Department.

A due process claim requires a liberty or property interest. A property interest exists only when an individual has legitimate claim of entitlement, rather than unilateral expectation, to a benefit, which claim can be based on background law. This D.C. Circuit panel notes a split over whether volunteesr can ever have a property interest in an unpaid job regardless of whether the job is statutorily guaranteed – the CA 7 holds that they can; the CA 3, they cannot. The panel does not reach this question as it finds that the reservists have no statutorily guaranteed interest in keeping their jobs, and so it affirms.

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