6th Circuit: Ex-trooper can’t reclaim job after running for mayor
A Tennessee state trooper who left his job to run for mayor has no
constitutional right to have his job back, a federal appeals ruled this
Trooper Jimmy Sain left his job to run for mayor of Hardeman County, Tenn.,
because a federal law known as the Hatch
Act prohibits certain state employees from running for elective office.
The law provides in part:
- A State or local officer or employee may not —
- use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office;
- directly or indirectly coerce, attempt to coerce, command, or advise a State or local officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to a party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes; or
- be a candidate for elective office.
Sain contended that his supervisor and a human resources manager told him
that his job would be available to him if he lost the election.
After Sain lost, he asked for his job back. However, a controversy developed
in Tennessee — unrelated to Sain — over alleged political favoritism in the
Tennessee Department of Safety. Allegations were made that troopers who
contributed to Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s campaign received promotions at a
quicker pace. As a result, the Department of Safety instituted a new policy that
any trooper who ran for political office would not be rehired.
Sain sued in state court after department officials cited the new policy and
refused to rehire him. He contended that the refusal violated his First
Amendment and due-process rights.
The defendants had the case moved to federal court. In May 2009, U.S.
District Judge J. Daniel Breen rejected Sain’s claims.
On May 11, 2010, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling. In Sain v.
Mitchell, the appeals court quoted from one of its previous decisions:
“Dismissal because of candidacy does not violate the First Amendment, absent
some showing that the termination was motivated by the employee’s political
beliefs, expressions, affiliation, partisan political activity, or expression of
The appeals court said the fact that Sain ran for office, not his political
beliefs, led to his not being rehired. The appeals court added that Sain was not
dismissed but left his job voluntarily.