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By Hassan Kanu
Oct. 1 — Granting the petition of a Paterson, N.J., police officer, the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 1 agreed to review if the officer's First Amendment rights were violated when he was demoted based on a supervisor's perception about his political preferences (Heffernan v. City of Paterson, U.S., No. 14-1280, cert. granted 10/1/15).
The justices will review a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decision that Jeffrey Heffernan had no triable First Amendment retaliation claim based on his supervisor's mistaken perception that he was supporting a former police chief's bid against the incumbent mayor (15 DLR AA-1, 1/23/15). The appeals court said Heffernan didn't exercise his free speech or association rights because he wasn't actually an active supporter of the opposition candidate and therefore can't prove that he engaged in protected activity under the First Amendment.
In seeking review, Heffernan argued that being penalized based on perceived political association also triggers constitutional protection. He asked the justices to address whether the First Amendment bars governments from demoting a public employee based on a supervisor's perception of the employee's political affiliations.
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