Shirvell v. Department of Attorney General: Pickering on the Wrong Person?

Author: Stephen Doyle, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

In Abrams v. U.S.,[1] Justice Holmes crafted the concept of the United States being an arena for political thought. Since Abrams was decided in 1919, the right of individuals to express their political thoughts has expanded to include almost all forms of speech.[2] However, in Shirvell v. Department of Attorney General, the Court of Appeals of Michigan was charged with determining how far the freedom of political speech truly reaches.[3] In Shirvell, a government official tasked with protecting U.S. citizens was fired and denied unemployment benefits due to his repeated derogation of homosexuals. Ultimately, the court correctly decided that the Department did not violate his First Amendment right by terminating his employment.

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