CockleBur contributor and UVA Law Professor Dan Ortiz earned a big SCOTUS win yesterday in Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, No. 09-1476.

This is how SCOTUS Blog’s Lyle Denniston described the Court’s opinion:

Solemnly fretting that lawsuits by government employees challenging their bosses might disrupt official activity by, among other ploys, an emotional appeal to a jury to think of the employee’s “little white fluffy dog,” the Supreme Court on Monday put a strict new limit on court cases based on the Constitution’s right-to-petition clause.   A public worker complaining of retaliation on the job, the Court decided, may sue under that clause, but only if the claim does not involve an “ordinary workplace grievance,” but rather involves a policy matter of community concern.

The ruling in Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri (09-1476) makes the understanding of the scope of Petition Clause cases quite closely match the scope of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.  Just as a public employee can go to court with a claim that his or her bosses intruded on free-speech rights only if the complaint involves a “matter of public concern,” the same is true when the employee opts to bring the lawsuit under the right to petition government to “redress” a grievance, the Court said in an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Congratulations to Dan and the UVA Supreme Court Clinic for a job well done.

For more coverage of Duryea: see the Josh Blackman blog, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Ruthann Robson at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.