ACLU of Alaska Requests Court Rules to Protect the First Amendment Rights of State Employees

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
April 19, 2021 6:15 pm

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The ACLU of Alaska has asked the court to decide a lawsuit against Governor Mike Dunleavy, his former Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock, and the State of Alaska for illegally firing two former doctors of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API).

Dr. Anthony Blanford was API’s Director of Psychiatry and Dr. John Bellville was a staff psychiatrist until they were fired when they refused to offer a loyalty pledge to the Dunleavy Administration.

When Governor Dunleavy took the helm as the state’s top official, he demanded that even non-political, non-policy-making state employees submit letters of resignation and required them to provide written allegiance that they supported the political and personal agenda of the Governor’s office.

The directive violated longstanding court decisions that explain state employees in positions that do not impact policy or political decisions cannot be forced to give up their First Amendment rights as a condition of employment and cannot be retaliated against for expressing their own views. It is also a well-established constitutional principle that the right to remain silent is as much a part of free speech as the right to speak out.

“’The terms ‘at will,’ ‘exempt,’ or ‘partially exempt’ do not give the political powers at be the authority to fire Dr. Blanford and Dr. Bellville for partisan reasons,” ACLU of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff said. “The Dunleavy Administration attacked the foundation of free speech when they attempted to bully alliances from public servants like our clients.”

The ACLU of Alaska filed a motion for summary judgment on April 9. The State of Alaska has until April 30 to respond, and briefing on the motion will be complete by mid-May. The court is expected to rule sometime this summer.

The American Civil Liberties Union is our nation’s guardian of liberty. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of virtually every major battle for civil liberties and equal justice in this country. Principled and nonpartisan, the ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to preserve and expand the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The ACLU of Alaska, founded in 1971, is one of the 53 state ACLU affiliates that strive to make the Bill of Rights real for everyone and to uphold the promise of the Constitution—because freedom can’t protect itself.

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