Saturday, December 7, 2013

Branti v. Finkel case brief

Branti v. Finkel case brief summary
445 U.S. 507 (1980)

Respondents, assistant public defenders (assistants), filed an action in the district court in order to preserve their positions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's temporary restraining order and permanent injunction that enjoined petitioner public defender from attempting to terminate the assistants based on their political beliefs. The public defender sought further review.

The assistants argued that they were being terminated merely because they were members of the Republican Party. The court of appeals agreed and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

  • On certiorari, the public defender argued that so long as an employee was not asked to change his political affiliation or to contribute to or work for the party's candidates the employee could be dismissed with impunity. 
  • Despite the public defender's argument, the Court held that the assistants were not required to prove that they were coerced into changing their political allegiance. 
  • Rather, it was sufficient for them to prove that they were discharged solely because they were not affiliated with or sponsored by the Democratic Party. 
  • The Court noted that the only instance in which it would be acceptable to terminate an employee for his political beliefs would be if those beliefs interfered with the discharge of his public duties. 
  • In this instance, the Court determined that the assistants' continued employment could not be properly conditioned on their allegiance to the political party in control of the county government because their primary duty was to their clients.
The Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals and held that it was appropriate for the district court to enter an injunction against termination of the assistants' employment on purely political grounds. The Court determined that the assistants' party affiliation was not an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of their duties to their indigent clients.

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