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Judge Fires Secretary Over Facebook Post?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Do you ever wonder what the judge is thinking in a case?

In this case, you may wonder what was the judge thinking. A former judicial secretary says the judge fired her because he disapproved of her Facebook posts.

It is far from a proven allegation in court, but everybody knows a Facebook post can go viral long before a court decision. In any case, the First Amendment usually wins.

Free Speech

Claiming her First Amendment rights were violated, Olga Zuniga sued Judge Kevin Yeary and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She says she posted on Facebook as a private citizen and not as a public employee.

According to the lawsuit, Yeary saw his clerk's Facebook profile and called her into his office to talk about it. He disapproved of her political statements and monitored them for a year.

After Zuniga criticized Republican politicians and President Trump on immigration issues, she was fired. When she applied for unemployment benefits, the complaint says, Yeary fought against her claim.

He allegedly said her Facebook posts used vulgar language that had a distinct political edge and which "indicated what appeared to be clear political biases." Zuniga says it was her constitutional right to speak out on political issues.

Political Speech

Yeary, elected to the appeals court in 2014, is a Republican. Zuniga, a 14-year court employee, is a Democrat.

Before Yeary counseled her about the Facebook posts, Zuniga claims she received positive reviews from her employer. Robert Schmidt, her attorney, said the judge tried to censor her.

"As American citizens, we have the right to speak out on politics and matters of public concern, and when the state starts punishing its employees for doing that, I think it's a very serious problem," Schmidt said.

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