Sheriff who fired deputy after election challenge faces suit

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has ruled against Washington County Sheriff Michael Robinson, who had sought to end a lawsuit against him by a deputy he fired after the deputy unsuccessfully challenged him for election in 2014.

Deputy Donald Morgan was fired six days after losing the election to Robinson. The sheriff cited campaign statements Morgan made about deficiencies within the department for the firing. Morgan says in the lawsuit that the firing violated his First Amendment right to free speech. An arbitrator ordered Morgan reinstated to his job.

Robinson sought to have the lawsuit against him dismissed, claiming qualified immunity, which shields public officials from liability. A U.S. District judge ruled against him in late 2016, and he appealed.

On Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, saying Morgan's campaign statements were protected speech.