Cities Gain Modest Protection from High Court Ruling on Speech; Opinion Sends Mixed Signal

By Shafroth, Frank | Nation's Cities Weekly, June 6, 1994 | Go to article overview

Cities Gain Modest Protection from High Court Ruling on Speech; Opinion Sends Mixed Signal


Shafroth, Frank, Nation's Cities Weekly


The U.S. Supreme Court last week gave cities a measure of protection against suits from employees disciplined for things they said. The Court overturned a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that would have held public employers to a strict new standard of liability when terminating employees for insubordinate speech.

The victory on this issue is tempered by the mixed signal the ruling, a plurality, sends. One one hand, the decision protects cities against the harsh liability specifically proposed by the Seventh Circuit, but, at the same time, lacking clarity, it opens the door to greater liability for cities.

But the plurality decision by the Supreme Court gave no bright line test for cities to determine what rights and procedures they have in disciplining employees over statements the employees have made. The decision provided no clear rule about when cities and towns would be subject to Section 1983 liability for disciplinary actions taken against employees for speech subsequently found to be protected under the First Amendment.

The case clearly changes the standard of liability for municipalities, as well as states and the federal government. It does not affect private employers, because the First Amendment only limits how governments can restrict speech.

NLC, the National Governors' Association, and other state and local organizations had filed a friend of the court brief, as did with the Clinton administration, due to the far-reaching implications and stringent standards the Seventh Circuit ruling imposed on public employers.

The case, Waters v. Churchill, began in 1987, when the plaintiff, Cheryl Churchill, an obstetrics nurse, was fired by the McDonough District Hospital, a public hospital, in Macomb, Illinois for making critical comments about management. As reported to hospital supervisors, Churchill criticized nursing managers personally, discussed her evaluation, and made other insubordinate comments.

Churchill alleged that the hospital was liable for retaliatory discharge under the First Amendments. She claimed that she was terminated because she had complained about the hospital's cross-training program, which, she further asserted, is a matter of public concern and is protected by the free speech provision of the First Amendment.

The hospital argued that it did not have any knowledge of anything other than unprotected, insubordinate speech by Ms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cities Gain Modest Protection from High Court Ruling on Speech; Opinion Sends Mixed Signal
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.