Panel Rejects Illinois Legislator’s Free-Speech Claims

CHICAGO (CN) – The Seventh Circuit on Monday dismissed Illinois State Senator Sam McCann’s claims that he was booted from the Senate Republican Caucus and denied resources including staff assistance in retaliation for saying he will run for governor as a third-party candidate.

The Illinois Senate chamber. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP)

“Allowing politics to play a role in politics does not violate the First Amendment,” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood said, affirming the dismissal of McCann’s First Amendment lawsuit.

McCann, a state senator for Illinois’ 50th District, along with a registered voter from his district sued the Illinois Republican Party in Chicago federal court in May after he was expelled from the party’s caucus by William Brady, minority leader of the Illinois State Senate and head of the Senate Republican Caucus.

“On Thursday, April 19, 2018, after witnessing nearly 50 percent of a frustrated Republican electorate cast their general primary votes for State Representative Jeanne Ives over incumbent [Bruce] Rauner for the Republican nomination for governor, plaintiff McCann announced that he intended to run for governor of Illinois as a ‘new political party candidate’ in the general election,” the lawsuit states.

The same day, Brady booted McCann from the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus and denied him “access to material, taxpayer-funded legislative operational resources required for him to fulfill his duties to his constituents,” including staffers, according to the complaint.

Brady is named as a defendant in McCann’s complaint, along with the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus and the state’s Republican Party.

McCann claims he was retaliated against because he took positions at odds with Republican leadership, in violation of his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The senator says he has been unable to do his job because Brady has denied him expert staffers from the minority caucus to help draft and coordinate new bills as well as communications and photography staff.

But a federal judge dismissed McCann’s lawsuit, finding that the alleged conduct “falls within the sphere of legislative activity properly protected by legislative immunity.”

The Seventh Circuit affirmed this ruling in a 10-page opinion Monday.

“When Minority Leader Brady concluded that McCann’s decision to split from the Republican Party meant that he was no longer entitled to the minority party’s resources for pushing legislation, he was acting in a legislative capacity,” Judge Wood wrote for the court’s three-judge panel.

U.S. Circuit Judges Diane Sykes and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion.

“McCann would have the federal courts micro-manage exactly which resources, and in what amount, the legislative leaders of the two major political parties dole out to their members. This is emphatically not our job,” Wood continued.

The court said it agreed with the Third Circuit’s 2003 opinion in Youngblood v. DeWeese, which ruled that the allocation of office funds from the legislative appropriation was a legislative act and therefore entitled to immunity.

%d bloggers like this: