(CN) – A Massachusetts sheriff was not protected by qualified immunity when she decommissioned deputies who opposed her in the election, the 1st Circuit ruled.
Andrea Cabral commissioned the six jail officers as her deputies after she was appointed to fulfill an unexpired term as Suffolk County (Mass.) sheriff.
However, she became embroiled in a dispute with the jail officers’ union, and all six officers campaigned for her opponent in the 2004 election.
After Cabral won the election, he decommissioned the deputies, transferring them to less desirable assignments. They sued in federal court for retaliation for their union and political activities.
The district court ruled in the deputies’ favor that Cabral’s actions were not protected by qualified immunity.
Judge Selya of the Boston-based federal appeals court affirmed the decision, since the officers missed out on security work that could have brought each of them several thousand dollars per year.
“Such a deprivation was a heavy price to pay for campaigning against the sheriff,” Selya wrote. “The threat of decommissioning is a classic example of pressure designed to coerce political orthodoxy.”