High court split over police officer's First Amendment case

AP News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2016 12:57 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems divided over whether New Jersey officials violated the free speech rights of a police officer who was demoted after his superiors assumed he was actively supporting a challenger in the local mayoral race.

The justices heard arguments Tuesday in the case of Jeffrey Heffernan, who says he was the victim of retaliation after officers saw him picking up a campaign sign and talking to campaign workers.

It turns out Heffernan was merely picking up the sign for his mother and was not involved in the campaign. Lower courts ruled his constitutional rights were not violated since Heffernan wasn't actually taking sides in the election.

Some justices seemed troubled that the city could be off the hook just because officials were mistaken about what Heffernan was doing.