By Richard Wolf, USA Today
WASHINGTON — A New Jersey police officer demoted because his bosses mistakenly thought he was supporting the mayor's political opponent won a reprieve from the Supreme Court Tuesday.
Two lower courts had upheld Jeffrey Heffernan's demotion a decade ago for an unusual reason: He was not actually engaging in political activity, but rather picking up a campaign sign for his mother.
Because of that, they said, his action was not protected under the First Amendment.
But the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that because the city of Paterson's motive was to prevent political speech protected by the Constitution, Heffernan's demotion from detective to patrol officer was unconstitutional, and he had the right to sue the city under federal civil rights laws.
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