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Rankin v. McPherson

United States Supreme Court
483 U.S. 378 (1987)


Ardith McPherson (plaintiff) worked as a clerical employee in the office of the constable, a law enforcement agency in Harris County, Texas. The agency was a private office that was not accessible to the public. On March 30, 1981, there was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan of the United States. McPherson heard the news of the assassination attempt while at work and engaged her coworker in a brief conversation. During the conversation, McPherson said that she was not surprised there was an assassination attempt, considering the president’s advocacy of reducing and eliminating welfare programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. McPherson then said that if there was another assassination attempt, she hoped that the attempt would succeed. Another employee overheard and reported these remarks to Rankin (defendant), the constable. Rankin brought McPherson into a meeting to discuss the remark and then fired McPherson. McPherson sued, claiming that her being fired for the remark was a violation of her right to free speech under the First Amendment.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Concurrence (Powell, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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