Heffernan v. City of Paterson was a U.S. Supreme Court case concerning the First Amendment rights of public employees, decided on April 26, 2016. Jeffrey Heffernan, a detective with the Paterson, New Jersey, police force, was seen with a lawn sign for the candidate challenging the city's incumbent mayor. Heffernan's supervisors mistakenly thought that he was actively supporting the challenger and demoted him. He brought suit alleging that his demotion violated his right to free speech. Writing for a majority of the Supreme Court, JusticeStephen Breyer(pictured) cited the Court's precedents, which had held that it is unconstitutional for a government agency to discipline an employee for engaging in partisan political activity, as long as that activity is not disruptive to the agency's operations. Even if Heffernan was not actually engaging in protected speech, he wrote, the discipline against him sent a message to others to avoid exercising their rights. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, in which he agreed that Heffernan had been harmed but not that his constitutional rights had been violated. (Full article...)
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