The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech. So, what happens when the government interferes with that right?
The right to speak is the cornerstone of our system of government.
The United States Supreme Court said that the country has a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” It may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.
As a result, the right to speak and write whatever one chooses-including, to some degree, worthless, offensive, and demonstrable untruths. Put simply, the right to speak “without cowering in fear of a powerful government” is an essential component of the First Amendment.
The government cannot retaliate against a person for protected speech.
Government officials may not retaliate against private citizens because of the exercise of their First Amendment rights. Such action strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.
In ordinary citizen cases, the government violates the First Amendment the government took action against the person because of what he said or wrote.
What does a citizen have to prove to win a retaliation case?
There are three elements to a First Amendment retaliation claim. Those are:
(1) constitutionally protected speech.
(2) retaliatory conduct that caused an injury that would chill a person of ordinary firmness.
(3) adverse actions that were substantially motivated by what the speaker said.
As to the first element – – constitutionally protected speech – – not every type of speech is protected. But, most speech is. The court will decide this question as a matter of law.
The second element asks whether the government’s conduct would cause an average person to change his speech (i.e., be “chilled”) in order to avoid the retaliation.
Finally, the third element requires the plaintiff to prove that the government took the action in question because of the plaintiff’s speech. Of course, this is a question that has to be answered on a case-by-case basis.
If the government has retaliated against you because you exercised your First Amendment rights, call the Panter Law Firm for a consultation. 601-607-3156.