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Legal Issues in Criminal Justice Administration
A. TITLE AND CITATION: Silva v. Bieluch, 351 F.3d 1045 (11th Cir. 2003)
B. TYPE OF ACTION: The United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, reviewed the ruling of a lower court. Former deputy sheriffs filed suit against their newly elected sheriff with complaint alleging First Amendment and due process violations. C. FACTS OF THE CASE: Rolando Silva and Ken Thomas supported the incumbent sheriff during the election period for a new sheriff. During the election, they were working as lieutenants on a probationary period. They appeared in campaign advertisements, attended political rallies, and participated in “get out the vote efforts” in support of the new sheriff’s adversary. The plaintiffs do not allege to have spoken out about public concern and do not allege to have publicly criticized Edward W. Bieluch at any point during the election. Once elected, Bieluch demoted the two deputy sheriffs, who were in the process of their yearlong probationary period, back to their previous positions. The former deputy sheriffs filed a suit claiming that their First Amendment rights and due process was violated. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed their complaint and the plaintiffs appealed their decision.
The Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the First Amendment against Bieluch, could not state a substantive due process claim resulting from the loss of their position, and that they had no due process property interest in their rank as lieutenants. D. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES:
a. Plaintiffs Silva and Thomas contend that their First Amendment rights were violated when they were demoted because of who they openly and publicly chose to support during the election. Further, the plaintiffs argue that due process was violated when they were demoted from their positions. b. Defendant Bieluch contends that his decision to demote the officers was within his state rights. E. ISSUE(S): If the two deputies were demoted because they chose to openly support the candidate of their choice, was their First Amendment right to free speech violated? Do the plaintiffs have due process property interest in their rank as a lieutenant? F. DECISION: No, the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were not violated. No, the plaintiffs do not have due process property interest in their rank. G. REASONING: A deputy’s loyalty to their sheriff is an appropriate requirement. A sheriff may hire, fire, promote or demote their employees based on their political patronage. The plaintiffs do not have due process property interest because employment rights are state rights, not fundamental rights provided by the constitution. H. RULE OF LAW: Under the First Amendment, Constitutional law states that a sheriff may promote or demote on basis of an employee’s political patronage. The Fourteenth Amendment states that, as probationary employees, the plaintiffs had no right to their rank until, at the least, they had served the entirety of their one-year probation period. Silva v. Bieluch, 351 F.3d 1045 (2003) (United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit November 25, 2003) (Westlaw, Dist. file).
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