Judge Tosses Illinois Lawmaker’s Free-Speech Suit

CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge 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.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrea Wood dismissed McCann’s lawsuit in an 18-page opinion Friday, finding that the alleged conduct “falls within the sphere of legislative activity properly protected by legislative immunity.”

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 on May 1 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.

On Friday, Judge Wood granted Brady’s motion to dismiss the claims and denied McCann’s request for temporary restraining order, despite his “laundry list of alleged deprivations.”

“McCann does not allege that he was expelled from the Senate, cannot serve on his assigned committees, cannot participate in debate or voting, or has been barred from introducing new bills,” the ruling states.

The judge continued, “McCann does not challenge Brady’s authority to allocate the resources according to Brady’s determination of the best interests of the minority caucus and its legislative agenda so much as he takes issue with Brady’s motivation for doing so… Legislative immunity turns on the function being carried out by the legislator, not his motive or intent.”

Judge Wood added that “the only consequences of his alleged improper ‘expulsion’ from the caucus by Brady involve the allocation [or lack thereof] of resources that Brady has the authority to allocate.”

McCann has been a state senator since 2010 and his term expires next January. He is currently in the process of collecting the required 25,000 signatures to qualify as a gubernatorial candidate. He wants to call his new political party the Conservative Party.

McCann said in a statement, “Bruce Rauner and his Republican Party are hiding behind immunity to try to silence me.”

“The truth is that Illinois has lost faith in Bruce Rauner and the Republican Party that he has purchased and poisoned. We stood witness to his weakness in the March primary election, but instead of allowing another candidate a fair chance to right the ship in Illinois, his allies are carrying out a war against many of the conservatives who elected him, to the detriment of the constituents who are watching in disgust,” the lawmaker said.

The senator is represented by Dale Pierson of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 Legal Department.

Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said in an email Monday, “Local 150’s Legal Department is reviewing Judge Wood’s decision and will discuss various options moving forward with Senator McCann.”

Brady is represented by Illinois Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ioppolo. A spokesperson for the Illinois attorney general’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

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