Press Release

Supreme Court says police officer wrongly demoted First Amendment protects right to pick up political campaign sign

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. Moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made an important First Amendment decision that will affect government employees nationwide.

This case involves a New Jersey police officer who was demoted for picking up a political campaign sign for his bedridden mother. Becket asked the Court to protect the officer’s right of free speech and his right to freely assemble. The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of the police officer.

“Even Snooki knows that picking up a campaign sign is protected by the First Amendment,” said Stephanie Barclay, counsel for Becket. “It’s sad that this case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court for the City of Paterson, New Jersey to learn that freedom of speech and the right to assemble are core rights of American citizens.”

Police Officer Jeffrey Heffernan went to the city of Paterson to pick up a political campaign sign supporting the mayor’s challenger for his ill mother. While doing this, he was spotted by the incumbent mayor’s security detail which wrongly reported Officer Heffernan was supporting the incumbent’s challenger. The very next day the Paterson Police Department demoted Mr. Heffernan from detective to patrol officer. Mr. Heffernan sued the city, the mayor, and the police chief of the city of Paterson for violating his rights to free speech and freedom of association.

“Especially in an election year it is crucial that the rights of speech and assembly are protected,” added Barclay. “All Americans have to be able to participate in the political process without fear of retribution.”

For more information or to arrange a follow-up 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 traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme Court.For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more).