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Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois

Citation. 22 Ill.497 U.S. 62, 110 S. Ct. 2729, 111 L. Ed. 2d 52, 5 IER Cases 673 (1990)
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Brief Fact Summary.

After the Governor of Illinois issued a hiring freeze regarding public employees, five people brought suit claiming they had been denied certain employment opportunities due their political beliefs.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

This case stands for the proposition that political administrations cannot punish employees or keep them from advancement merely because they do not politically align with the administration.


The Governor of Illinois issued a hiring freeze, giving his office control over hiring and promotions of governmental employees. Five people brought suit claiming they had been denied advancement opportunities, employment, or the ability to return to work after a lay-off because they did not politically align with the views of the administration.
The district court dismissed the claims of the Petitioners, Rutan and others (Petitioners). The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted certiorari to hold whether their decisions in prior cases (Elrod and Branti, both of which held that dismissals based on political viewpoints were tantamount to a violation of an individual’s First Amendment constitutional rights), extended to employment decisions regarding low-level public employees.


The issue in this case is whether the doctrine of Elrod and Branti can be extended to these Petitioners who were not dismissed, but who claim other grievances due to their lack of political congruence.


The Supreme Court held that the rule of Elrod and Branti could be extended to promotions, transfers, recall and hiring decisions and, provided a particular individual could state a claim upon which relief could be granted, they were entitled to damages.
Additionally, the Supreme Court highlighted the fact that employees who find themselves in dead-end jobs due to their political views are adversely affected and this works as a suppression of their own views, in favor of the views of the administration.


Judge Antonin Scalia (J. Scalis) dissented, noting that patronage of a political party serves to stabilize the party. If patronage is eliminated, the party’s own views will be undermined.


The First Amendment right to associate creates implications insofar as respect must be afforded to individuals who chose not to associate and they must not be adversely impacted because of their personal vi

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