Published on: Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts lost its bid to challenge a federal appellate court August 2022 decision rejecting a series of rules that limited political activity court workers could engage in outside of the office. (Previous coverage available here.)

The office, which performs policy-related and administrative work for the federal judiciary, had asked for rehearing in November, arguing the prohibitions didn't violate its employees' First Amendment rights and that they were needed to protect the judicial branch's perceived reputation of impartiality.

The prohibitions at issue forbade employees from publicly expressing opinions about partisan candidates or parties, wearing or displaying partisan badges and signs, donating to a partisan candidate or party and attending fundraisers, campaign events, conventions or rallies, according to court documents. Federal judiciary employees were also prohibited from being a member of a partisan political organization, driving voters to the polls on behalf of a candidate or party and organizing campaign events.

A majority of the nine D.C. Circuit judges eligible to consider the judiciary's appeal voted against rehearing the case en banc, with only one judge dissenting. 

The ruling that the judiciary's policy of barring administrative staffers from engaging in political activities outside of the office unconstitutional stands.

The case is Guffey et al. v. Mauskopf, 20-5183 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 13, 2023).