Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Twitter Firing!

A deputy attorney general in Indiana, Jeffrey Cox, with a Twitter account, like many attorneys do these days (including me), decided to post a Tweet regarding the labor protests in Madison, Wisconsin and offered this advice to the pro-laborers: “Use live ammunition.” It got him fired.

The ABA Journal who ran with the story has more details surrounding the termination and describes Cox's less-than-good discretionary posts on other internet postings:
The Indiana Attorney General’s office explained its decision in a statement. “We respect individuals' First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility," the AG's office said.

According to Mother Jones, Cox said the protesters were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were physically threatening lawmakers, and he called the publication’s reporter a “typical leftist.”

"You're damned right I advocate deadly force,” Cox reportedly wrote.

Cox often expressed acerbic opinions on Twitter and his blog Pro Cynic, Mother Jones says. He called President Obama “incompetent and treasonous” and said a black teen was a “thug who was (deservedly) beaten up” by local police as he tried to prevent the arrest of his “equally thuggish” brother. The blog has since been taken down, but Mother Jones has published screen shots, and some stories still appear on cached pages.
There is some commentary from famed First Amendment scholar Jonathan Turley who believes that given the specifics of Cox's online speech, there may be fairly strong First Amendment case to be made and comes down to the question and issue of whether a public employee like Cox has any protection for comments made as a private citizen.

1 comment:

  1. Looking at the context and content of his intemperate remarks Cox definitely was not voicing his opinions as an Indiana AG employee, but rather as a citizen. So no Garcetti v Ceballos defense. The AG may be able to prevail in a Pickering balancing test, but it would be a mighty close issue. Could well be First Amendment Speech.