Court: Cronyism in Boston Fire Department not a First Amendment issue

A federal appeals court today tossed the First Amendment claims of a group of Boston Fire Department clerical workers passed over for promotions, saying that while it's unfortunate they may have lost out because they weren't friends with the mayor's cronies in management, that doesn't rise to the level of a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The workers alleged they were passed over repeatedly for promotions in favor of friends or members of "the Hyde Park Group" affiliated with pals of the mayor and a similar "South Boston Group."

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said that while the workers might have possible claims under state job laws, their allegations the activity violated their First Amendment rights against political discrimination failed - in a ruling that perhaps indicates a certain lack of understanding of how politics is done in a city where, legally speaking, there are no local political parties:

While appellants consistently apply the label "political" to the decision-making process that resulted in the challenged adverse employment actions, they use this adjective to refer to office politics and interpersonal relationships rather than the conduct of government, public policy or public controversies. In appellants' parlance, any connection to a city official or powerful figure within the BFD is a political connection or affiliation. For example, appellants assert that a friendship with the mayor's wife, dating someone who works in a city councilor's office, being the son-in-law of the mayor's righthand- man, and living on the same block as a BFD chief are all "political" connections. ...

Taken as a whole, the record before us lacks indicia of discrimination on the basis of political affiliation. There is no evidence, or even any allegation, of conflict concerning the conduct of government, public policy or public controversies. Likewise, there is no identification of any political group, party or faction with whom appellants associated, or refused to associate. The "South Boston Group" and the "Hyde Park Group" identified by appellants are at most social and familial networks loosely organized around Boston locales; there is no indication that they have any political significance.

The workers can continue to pursue a separate claim in state court under state employment laws.



    Free tagging: 


    Discrimination over political

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    Discrimination over political views is just as contentious as discrimination over religion. Somehow I doubt the ACLU will be jumping to to defend these firefighters' civil liberties. No money to be made in this case.

    ACLU is a non-profit organization

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    For more than 80 years, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has worked to defend fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to privacy. The efforts of ACLU attorneys have also influenced interpretations of U.S. Constitutional law. The ACLU has grown to include more than 400,000 members and handles around 6,000 court cases each year.

    However, the ACLU and controversy are never far apart. It has most often come under attack from conservatives and the government, but its defense of religious figures and neo-Nazis has drawn the ire of liberals as well. In this article, we'll find out what the ACLU does and where it came from. We'll also learn why it's so controversial.

    The ACLU is a non-profit organization that provides legal aid to people whose cases fall under its mission.

    The ACLU only takes cases

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    The ACLU only takes cases that they can win in order to use the settlement payments to pay their overhead. They do note make enough money through donations alone to maintain their organization.


    so then how does filing a restraining order against the police (no idea how this is even legal) for a faceless group (occupy boston) turn a profit?

    If the police wind up doing

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    If the police wind up doing anything questionable to the protestors the ACLU is now first in line to represent the protestors instead of some independent lawyers. It's a positioning tactic.

    Boston Political Parties


    My question is a bit of a tangent, but refers to the following passage from your post about a Fire Department-related legal decision:

    understanding of how politics is done in a city where, legally speaking, there are no local political parties:

    During the recent city elections, my husband and I wondered why Councilmen don't run with party affiliations. In other words, we don't see "Ayanna Pressley: Democrat for City Council." Why is this? You seem to hint that there's a law on the books prohibiting it...

    I appreciate your insights.


    Derek McIver

    Good question

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    For whatever reasons, local elections in Massachusetts are non-partisan, to the point where we have preliminaries (to reduce the number of candidates for a given office to the top two vote getters, or two times the number of seats for things such as at-large councilors) rather than primaries. Even in Connecticut, they have partisan candidates for selectmen.

    But, yeah, does anybody have more specifics?

    In practical terms, everybody knows what party the candidates are, and I don't think Boston has had a Republican city councilor since the 1980s (although we did have a Green/Rainbow councilor until he was convicted of taking a bribe and kicked off the council).

    Section 32 of the City Charter

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    Ballots Must Be Free of References to Political Parties.
    No ballot used at any preliminary or regular election shall have printed thereon any party or political designation or mark, and there shall not be appended to the name of any candidate any such party or political designation or mark or anything showing how he was nominated or indicating his views or opinions. [Acts of 1948, c. 452, s. 63, amended by Acts of 1951, s. 376, s. 2.63]