The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed the First Amendment suit of Bethel school board member Ken Blair, who claimed that by dumping him as vice president for criticizing the superintendent of the Pierce County district, the rest of the board had violated his constitutional rights.
A district court had already ruled against him on summary judgment.
Blair had evidently been criticizing the superintendent, Tom Siegel, ever since Siegel was hired in 2000. In 2007, Blair voted against renewing Siegel's contract and raising his pay, then allegedly told a reporter 'ê(m)y biggest issue with the superintendent is trust."
The other board members decided they wanted a different vice president. Blair sued.
"[A]s the district court intuited," the 9th Circuit said, "more is fair in electoral politics than in other contexts." Politics is a contact sport, and "the First Amendment does not succor casualties of the regular functioning of the political process."
There's a difference between suppressing speech and voting against someone because you don't like what he says. The court had no trouble making that distinction. It said that 'êthe First Amendment protects Blair's discordant speech as a general matter; it does not, however, immunize him from the political fallout of what he says."