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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Republican Party of Illinois
No. 88-2074
(Argued the cause for the respondents in No. 88-1872 and the petitioners in No. 88-2074)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners in No. 88-1872 and the respondents in No. 88-2074)
Facts of the Case 

In November 1980, Governor James Thompson of Illinois issued an order that prohibited state officials from hiring new employees, promoting state employees, or recalling state employees after layoffs without the approval of the Governor's Office of Personnel. The Office of Personnel based hiring and promotion decisions on factors such as the applicant's contributions to the Republican Party, the applicant's record of service to the Republican Party, and the support of local Party officials. In the jointly decided case of Frech v. Rutan, Cynthia B. Rutan and a number of other potential and current state employees challenged this patronage system, alleging that the Governor was violating their First Amendment rights by practicing unfair political patronage and party-based discrimination.


Did Governor Thompson's practices in Illinois infringe upon the First Amendment rights of potential and current state employees?

Decision: 5 votes for Rutan, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that Governor Thompson's practices amounted to an unconstitutional patronage system. The Court found that employees would feel "a significant obligation to support political positions held by their superiors" in lieu of their true beliefs in order to progress up the career ladder. The Court thus held that "promotions, transfers, and recalls after layoffs based on political affiliations or support" were impermissible infringements on the right to free expression of public employees. The Court noted that while the First Amendment was not "a tenure provision" protecting employees from "constructive discharge," it nevertheless prevented the government from interfering with its employees' freedom "to believe and associate."

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RUTAN v. REPUBLICAN PARTY OF ILLINOIS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
RUTAN v. REPUBLICAN PARTY OF ILLINOIS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"RUTAN v. REPUBLICAN PARTY OF ILLINOIS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,