Keri Borzilleri was an Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore when elections were held for the office of State’s Attorney (her superior’s office) in 2014. In the Democratic primaries of that election, Borzilleri publicly supported incumbent Gregg Bernstein over his challenger Marilyn Mosby who won the primaries and, in November, the general election. A day after being questioned by a political deputy as to her involvement in Bernstein’s campaign, Borzilleri was terminated without cause. She alleged it was due to her support of Bernstein, and thus sued Mosby for violating her First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found last month that Borzilleri and Mosby’s respective positions constituted policy-making offices, as Mosby was an elected official who needed ASAs like Borzilleri to implement her policies. In their responsibilities, ASAs like Borzilleri often face issues which leave room for political disagreement. The Court found therefore that it is in the government’s best interests to promote political harmony between the State’s Attorney and her ASAs—meaning Borzilleri’s termination did not violate her freedom of association. And since Borzilleri’s termination for political disagreement was lawful, her termination for political disagreement via speech was just as lawful and not in violation of Borzilleri’s First Amendment rights to free speech.
Case: Borzilleri v. Mosby, No. 16-1751 (4th Cir. Oct. 17, 2017) (opinion here)