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Rankin v. McPherson

Pickering And Connick

Two previous cases involving public employees' speech came to bear on this decision: Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) and Connick v. Myers (1983). Pickering involved a public school teacher dismissed for criticizing the board of education in a letter to the editor. The Court held that the teacher's dismissal violated his right to free speech. Justice Marshall, writing for the majority, explained that the Court's job was to "arrive at a balance between the interests of the teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees." The legacy of Pickering is a balancing test. The three-step Mt. Healthy test was a later elaboration on the Pickering balance.

The second case, Connick v. Myers, further refined the Pickering test by adding a threshold requirement. The case arose when an assistant district attorney circulated an inflammatory questionnaire in her office. After being dismissed for what was called her "mini-insurrection," she sued. The Supreme Court ruled against her, on the grounds that her speech did not address a matter of public concern. Thus Connick added the "public concern threshold" to the Pickering balance, resulting in the test that the Rankin Court would use.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Rankin v. McPherson - "i Hope They Get Him", Pickering And Connick, Comment A Matter Of Public Concern, "simply Violent"