(CN) – A Wisconsin sheriff did not violate his deputy’s free-speech rights by singling him out for a dangerous assignment after the deputy questioned the sheriff’s courage, the 7th Circuit ruled.
The Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff’s Association (MDSA) learned that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. was asking officers to patrol his home and escort him to the airport.
Clarke posted a bulletin-board message quoting Deuteronomy 20:8: “If you are afraid or have lost your courage, you may go home; otherwise, you will ruin the morale of others.”
Offended, Deputy Michael Schuh posted a similar message in an employee newsletter, altering the Bible verse to reflect Clarke’s practice of using police officers to escort him.
Clarke responded by assigning Schuh to foot patrol in full uniform, without a partner or a car, in an area of Milwaukee that the Journal-Sentinel newspaper called “a high killing area.”
Schuh did that job for six weeks in the summer before he was granted a transfer.
The MDSA and Schuh claimed Clarke and Capt. Eileen Richards violated Schuh’s First Amendment Rights.
The district court ruled for the sheriff, and Judge Kanne of the Chicago-based federal appeals court agreed.
“To receive First Amendment protection, a public employee must speak as a citizen on a matter of public concern. If he is not so speaking, the employee has no cause of action for First Amendment retaliation.”