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Home / Opinions / Courts / 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals / Civil Rights : First Amendment – Campaign Statements – Qualified Immunity

Civil Rights : First Amendment – Campaign Statements – Qualified Immunity

Where a deputy sheriff who was fired by the newly elected sheriff brought claims against the sheriff and the county arguing that he was fired in retaliation for statements that he made on the campaign trail that should have been protected by the First Amendment, the denial of qualified immunity to the defendant is reversed because the sheriff’s actions did not violate an established constitutional right since loyalty was an appropriate requirement for the position of deputy sheriff.


Balancing test

Dissenting opinion by Shepherd, J.: “I respectfully dissent from the majority’s reversal of the district court. The majority states that in order to determine whether Nord’s free speech rights were clearly established it is necessary to decide whether ‘his particular speech was protected by the First Amendment.’ However, Wild has conceded that Nord’s speech was protected and that he terminated Nord for exercising his First Amendment rights, and the majority has accepted this concession. Thus, we need not determine anew whether Nord’s speech was protected. After Wild’s concession, and the majority’s acknowledgment that Nord’s First Amendment rights had been violated, the sole remaining question under qualified immunity review is whether Nord’s right—to engage in protected campaign speech directed against his opponent and boss without being terminated—was clearly established, a question to which an analysis under the two-step Pickering/Connick balancing test is unwarranted. Because Nord’s rights were clearly established, and because the Elrod/Branti exception does not apply, I would affirm the denial of qualified immunity.”

Judgment is reversed.

Nord v. Walsh County (MLW No. 66565/Case No. 12-3249 – 24 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, Beam, J.) Appealed from U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota, Erickson, J. (Daniel L. Gaustad, Grand Forks, North Dakota, argued for appellant; Ronald F.

Fischer appeared on the brief) (Sara R. Behrens, Grand Forks, North Dakota, argued for appellee; Scott J. Landa appeared on the brief).

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