The Supreme Court says a New Jersey police officer who was demoted after his boss mistakenly believed he was involved in a political campaign can still bring a lawsuit alleging a violation of free speech rights.
The justices ruled Tuesday that Jeffrey Heffernan could file a First Amendment claim against the city of Paterson, New Jersey, even if he wasn’t actually taking sides in the local mayoral race.
Heffernan claimed he was a victim of retaliation after other officers saw him picking up a campaign sign and talking to campaign workers. But Heffernan was really picking up the sign for his mother and was not involved in the campaign.
Lower courts ruled against Heffernan, saying the government doesn’t violate First Amendment rights unless a person is actually exercising those rights.