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Federal workers lose challenge to ban on discussing Trump impeachment

Federal workers lose challenge to ban on discussing Trump impeachment
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Federal workers lost a court challenge to a government rule banning them from having conversations about opposing President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE or impeaching him. 

U.S. District Court Judge Paula Xinis in Maryland ruled this week that the union representing the workers did not sufficiently demonstrate that the rule violated their First Amendment rights.

Xinis, who was appointed by former President Obama, wrote in her ruling that the plaintiffs did not provide “any specific allegation as to how the Advisory Opinion interferes with their First Amendment rights.”

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She added that the plaintiffs argued “simply that their members’ speech is ‘chilled’ if the Advisory Opinion is allowed to stand, but provide little reason as to why.” 

“The Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed both to aver claims fit for judicial review and to convince this Court that the balance of hardships weighs in their favor. Because Plaintiffs’ claims are not ripe, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear them,” she ruled.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, first warned in 2018 before Trump’s impeachment that it would deem statements on resistance and impeachment to violate a federal law prohibiting federal workers from supporting or opposing political candidates in their official capacities.

"To the extent that the statement relates to resistance to President Donald J Trump, usage of the terms 'resistance,' '#resist,' and derivatives thereof is political activity," the office wrote in a memo.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) had argued that the guidelines expanded beyond the law’s bounds and infringed on its members' freedom of speech and said the ruling was "still evaluating the court’s opinion."

"[T]he decision is an obvious disappointment. The court’s opinion does not give sufficient consideration to the profound chilling effect that OSC’s guidance has on the First Amendment rights of federal employees. We look forward to providing a more comprehensive statement once we have completed our evaluation," said AFGE National President Everett Kelley.

The Office of Special Counsel celebrated the ruling this week, saying it “preserves” the office’s “important advisory role.”

“This is a good outcome, and I appreciate the Court's thoughtful opinion,” said Special Counsel Henry Kerner.