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Illinois Legislator's Free-Speech Claims Rejected by 7th Circuit

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit by a Republican state senator who said his party leaders retaliated against him for challenging them.

Illinois State Sen. Sam McCann, upset with the party and its choice for governor in the primaries, had announced that he would run as a third-party candidate in the general election. That same day, the senate minority leader kicked him out of the Republican caucus.

In McCann v. Brady, McCann says the leadership expelled him for exercising his right to free speech. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals basically said there is no free speech in politics.

Legislative Immunity

McCann complained in his lawsuit that minority leader William Brady also denied him staffers to help draft and coordinate new bills. He also lost communications and photograph staff, according to the complaint.

A trial judge dismissed the case, saying the alleged actions fell "within the sphere of legislative activity properly protected by legislative immunity."

The Seventh Circuit agreed. The appeals court said that Brady was acting in his legislative capacity, and that McCann's free speech had nothing to do with it.

"Allowing politics to play a role in politics does not violate the First Amendment," Judge Diane Wood wrote for the unanimous panel.

"Frustrated Electorate"

Wood said McCann wanted the courts to "micro-manage" party leaders and how they allocate resources to their members. "This is emphatically not our job," she said.

McCann just wanted to give "frustrated" voters, who chose a Republican legislator over the Republican incumbent, another choice. That's why he declared his intent to run as a "new political party candidate" in the general election, he said.

In any case, his case shows there's a price to pay for free speech in politics.

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