Press Release

Media Advisory: Supreme Court to decide whether New Jersey police officer has right to pick-up campaign sign Case could have major repercussions on First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this Tuesday, January 19, 2016, in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, a case involving Jeffrey Heffernan, a New Jersey police officer. Officer Heffernan was demoted for picking up a political campaign sign for his bedridden mother. An assistant to Paterson’s mayor saw Officer Heffernan with the sign —which was for the mayor’s political opponent— leading to Officer Heffernan’s demotion.

The City freely admits it demoted Officer Paterson for picking up the sign. However it says that because City officials wrongly thought the sign was for Officer Heffernan rather than his mother, no First Amendment rights are involved. Surprisingly, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals accepted this ignorant defense, leading the Supreme Court to take up the case.

Becket filed a friend of the court brief supporting Heffernan, urging the Court to restore and uphold important First Amendment assembly and speech freedoms.


Oral arguments in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey


Adèle Keim and Stephanie Barclay
Counsel for Becket


January 19, 2016, 11.15 a.m. EST (after oral argument concludes)


U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First St NE, Washington, DC 20543

Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the argument.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.