• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court concluded that patronage hiring and firing of low-level government employees violates their free speech rights.

An Illinois Republican governor issued an order prohibiting state hiring without his approval, which required adherence to Republican Party beliefs. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court extended First Amendment protection to low-level government employees denied jobs or promotions through patronage politics. In his opinion for the Court, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.,Brennan, William J., Jr.;Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois[Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois] followed the Court’s decisions in Elrod v. Burns[case]Elrod v. Burns[Elrod v. Burns] (1976) and Branti v. Finkel[case]Branti v. Finkel[Branti v. Finkel] (1980). The Court was badly split, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing a dissent longer than the Court’s opinion defending traditional patronage politics for its party-enhancing characteristics. Scalia argued that Elrod and Branti should both be overturned and that a legislature not the Court should decide whether patronage had values that should be balanced against any loss of free speech that resulted from the patronage system. The Scalia dissent was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred with Brennan, giving a point-by-point rebuttal of Scalia’s arguments.Speech, freedom of;Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois[Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois]Patronage;Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois[Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois]

Buckley v. Valeo

Elrod v. Burns

First Amendment

Political parties

United Public Workers v. Mitchell

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