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Constitutional Law

Firing public defender over Facebook comments violated 1st Amendment, his lawyer says

Posted Jul 17, 2014 11:30 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Firing and publicly humiliating a longtime assistant Florida public defender over comments he made on Facebook violated his First Amendment rights, says a lawyer for now-former Broward County employee Gary Sheres.

In a blistering Wedneday statement published by the Sun Sentinel, attorney Jason Blank contends that Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein not only wrongfully fired Sheres in violation of his right to free speech but publicly misrepresented Sheres' views and willingness to apologize.

"Mr. Sheres did not disparage people of Arabic or Islamic descent," said Blank of his client's Facebook comments concerning claimed celebration by some Palestinians over the slayings of three Israeli teens. "Rather, he solely expressed disgust at the individuals responsible for the murders and those depicted in the article. The very same disgust shared by millions of Americans, Israelis and conscientious people worldwide over the barbaric acts."

The Facebook comments at issue in the firing of Sheres and a fellow assistant public defender in Broward County are detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

Related coverage:

New York Times (June 30, reg. req.): "Israel’s Search for 3 Teenagers Ends in Grief"

Al Jazeera (July 4): "Israeli police, Palestinians clash during Palestinian teen’s funeral"

Globe and Mail: "After death of Palestinian teen, Israel left to deal with new national threat "

USA Today (opinion): "Reaction to teen murders matters, too"

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