NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) A pro-Trump lawyer, fired from a government post in a pro-Trump state for repeating pro-Trump talking points, is fighting back.
Jerry Morgan was sacked by the State Council that regulates attorneys when his controversial tweets became public, and the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility informed Morgan that it was also investigating whether he should face the challenge. sanctions as a lawyer.
Now Morgan has filed a federal complaint that accuses the council and its chief disciplinary adviser, Sandy Garrett, of violating his civil rights.
I was fired solely because of my political speech, Morgan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
“If the board sanctioned a lawyer just for speaking out politically, then the board could go after any lawyer in this state for anything the board deemed wrong, and which the board did not. is not allowed to do so.
Tonight on NewsChannel 5 to 6: Jerry Morgan talks about his experience
Morgan has been employed by the Board of Professional Responsibility since February 2019 and is primarily responsible for arguing attorney ethics cases in state appellate courts, including the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The lawsuit says the State Professional Liability Board terminated Morgan in December 2020 after a lawyer under investigation filed a petition accusing Morgan of being an extremist anti-Muslim fanatic and claiming Morgan may have a bias against the lawyer whose wife is Muslim.
The motion, which sought to bar Morgan from participating in the case, cited a number of Morgan’s tweets, many of which were posted during the 2016 and 2020 presidential election campaigns.
Among them, tweets in which he said:
Trump was talking about the # 1 issue of our time arresting Muslims. Everyone better wake up! Where is the proof that Islam is a religion of peace? They have gone to war with all the societies they have encountered for thousands of years. When someone kills an abortion provider, they are strongly condemned. By Christians. Muslims don’t do the same. Teaming up with Obama in a fight involving Muslims means you are on the wrong side.
These tweets reflected comments from the candidate – and, later, the President – Trump himself.
In other tweets, Morgan argued that African Americans had prospered economically under Trump, but Democrats don’t want record jobs among minorities. They need them caught in a slave mentality.
These comments parallel statements made by some African-American conservatives.
But, in a December 11, 2020 memo, the Professional Liability Board’s human resources manager told Morgan that the board’s disciplinary advisers have a duty to protect the public without discrimination or bias.
We recognize and respect your right to free speech, wrote Stephanie Holliday, Head of Human Resources. However, your speech had a negative impact on your ability to perform tasks successfully.
Reaction of the Morgans?
“This is completely wrong,” he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
“It had never affected my professional duties until this point. In 17 years, I have never been charged with an ethics violation, and no one on the board could tell you otherwise.
“My work for the board has been exemplary.”
Then, on March 1, former Morgans boss Sandy Garrett informed him that the board had opened an investigation into your conduct, although the motion referring to Morgans’ tweets never alleged he had took improper action in the matter before it.
Morgan, in the interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates, insisted he had never shown any bias against Muslims.
In fact, I worked with Muslims in Romania who were fleeing their country from Syria, fleeing terrorism, he argued.
I worked with them, teaching them English, helping them acclimatize to western culture. I have no animosity towards Muslims, in general, at all. My position was on Islamic terrorism. “
NewsChannel 5 Investigates continued, “When you look at the tweets, do you understand why some people would find them objectionable?”
“Of course,” Morgan replied.
These are matters that are the subject of intense public debate, and the beauty of the First Amendment is that all parties have the right to speak in a public forum on matters of public interest.
Morgans’ attorney, Democratic activist Gary Blackburn, argues in the lawsuit that “a public sector employee has the right to speak under the First Amendment on matters of public importance and such protected speech may not legally constitute the basis for dismissal from the civil service “.
The lawsuit notes that many of Morgan’s tweets predate his employment in the state.
The fact that I disagree with his views has to be put in context that most Tennesseans agreed with him, Blackburn said. This state has been overwhelmingly supported by Mr. Trump, on two occasions. These are basically his opinions. “
Blackburn insisted that his client had the unequivocal right to make such comments.
When asked why he thought the Professional Liability Board terminated his client, Blackburn paused: “I don’t like using that term – it got canceled. His opinions were so unpleasant to some. people they imagined it would interfere with his ability to do a job despite not doing it up to this point.
And I think there is an element of what is often referred to as the culture of cancellation there. “
NewsChannel 5 has reached out to Sandy Garrett and the Professional Liability Board for a response, but no response had been received at the time of this posting.
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