Tag Archives: Political Speech

Seventh Circuit Reaffirms The Health of Mt. Healthy

In Brown v County of Cook, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment for the defendants on Plaintiff’s claim that he was passed over for a promotion as a Cook County Sheriff because he was a Republican and did not contribute to a Democratic sheriff’s campaign fund. Brown claimed that he was discriminated against as a consequence of his First Amendment political speech.  In rejecting Brown’s claim, the court applied Mt Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle.  The court found that pursuant to Mt. Healthy, if Brown presented evidence that his political affiliation was a motivating factor in his being passed over, the burden would shift to the Defendant to show that Brown’s political affiliation was not the cause of  his not being promoted. For example, if the Defendants could show that no openings were available, Brown could not prevail, even if he would not have been promoted as a consequence of his failure to contribute, had an opening existed.  The evidence submitted to the court showed that whether one contributed to the campaign was not a factor in who got promoted and who did not.

Brown demonstrates that a negative impact alone is not enough to prevail in civil rights claims based upon the exercise of First Amendment Speech.  A successful litigant must show that he would not have sustained the employment consequence but for his speech.