After nearly a decade, the Second Circuit Court’s opinion invalidating John Rowland’s layoff of nearly 3,000 state employees is a tremendous victory for the free speech rights of all Americans. The court held that when a governor punishes people because of the group to whom they belong – whether it’s a union or a political party, or a religion – he or she violates our Constitution’s most cherished provisions.
The case is now being remanded to the district court to craft appropriate equitable relief, and to consider the case for damages against the former governor.
The Second Circuit Court’s opinion shows that Rowland’s treatment of public service workers as the enemy is costly and destructive – to the workers and the vital public services they provide, and to every taxpayer.
Instead, it is mutual respect – for the law, for public service workers, and most importantly the public we all serve – which will move us forward towards a better future. Our country and state simply function better when top officials work with and for working families, instead of against them.
“It feels great to be vindicated by the appellate court,” said Denise Bouffard, a Support Enforcement Officer and plaintiff in the case who was illegally fired from the state in 2003. “I stepped forward because as a single parent I wanted to show my daughter that when you believe in something you have to stand up for what is right.” Denise is a member of Judicial Professional Employees Local 4200B.
“When John Rowland laid off nearly 3000 state workers it was a mean, vindictive act that was perpetuated by Jodi Rell, after Rowland went to prison,” said Marcelle Pichanick Groves, one of the named plaintiffs in the case. “Rell had many opportunities to make this right and thus mitigate the damages for our state’s tax payers. Instead she chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars fighting this lawsuit. I thank the court for upholding the rights of workers.” Groves worked as a Management Analyst 2 for the Department of Environmental Protection when Rowland laid off 3,000 state employees including her. She now works for the State Department of Education as an Associate Account Examiner and is a member of A&R Local 4200.
Ultimately the Court’s decision is a welcome reminder to the John Rowlands of Connecticut, the Scott Walkers of Wisconsin and the Koch brothers of everywhere that in America it’s not just the powerful, the rich and the big corporations that have free speech rights. Ordinary Americans, whether they work for the government, private industry or their corner drug store, have rights, too.
A copy of the decision can be found here: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/3829bb26-7573-4307-b014-149c3c3a1ed0/3/doc/11-3061_opn.pdf