Paterson Police Officer Jeffrey Heffernan’s discipline case is going to the Supreme Court. The 1st Amendment provides for employees to support the political candidates of their choosing, but lower courts found that Heffernan couldn’t invoke this legal protection because he had no intention of participating in a campaign when he picked up a fallen sign that his mother wanted. He also isn’t a Paterson resident.
But still, Heffernan was demoted because city officials perceived him to be engaged in “overt involvement in a political election”. So, the heart of this matter remains free speech rights. NorthJersey.com reports:
Mark B. Frost, a Philadelphia lawyer representing Heffernan, said that ruling could have a “chilling effect” unless the Supreme Court overturns it.
“It’s a national issue that will affect potentially thousands of employees throughout the country,” Frost said. “What difference does it make if an individual is perceived to be aligned with a particular party or if they are not? It’s still retaliation.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear only 75 to 80 cases each year — out of more than 10,000 requests … Frost said the high court frequently takes on legal questions that have divided lower courts across the country.
Artwork courtesy of My First Freedoms website