The Utah Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by three U.S. Postal Service workers against Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, for using a picture of them and the senator in a campaign brochure.
The three workers, Shelia Ann Cox, Susan Keller and Susan Smith, claimed that as a result of the brochure published in 1982, they were investigated by the postal service and their union.They alleged, according to court documents, that the picture implied that they endorsed Hatch when, as postal service employees, they are precluded by federal law from taking a public stand in a political campaign.
But the lawsuit was dismissed in 3rd District Court on the grounds that it had "a chilling effect on the closely guarded right of free speech" and therefore, was barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In an opinion filed Monday, the Utah Supreme Court stated that requiring the media or politicians to get permission from persons in a public place before taking photographs would "go a long way toward `freezing' the publication of much information that is entitled to constitutional protections."
The court also ruled that the workers were not defamed, since the picture's implication that they were either members of the Republican party or supporting Hatch would not meet the legal test for defamation.