Appeals court to rule whether former firefighter gets job back, back pay

A federal appeals court will decide if a former Dallas firefighter gets his job back with back pay.

Micah Phillips was fired when he filed to run for commissioners court back in January of 2012 -- city rules say that a municipal employee can't hold a job and run to hold a partisan office at the same time.

"It's in both the city charter and the city code of ethics, but it's our position, and we think the Fifth Circuit will ultimately decide that municipal employees don't check their Constitutional rights at the firehouse door or at the city hall doors," said Phillips' attorney, Christopher Kratovil.

Phillips and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit, alleging "abridgement of rights guaranteed by way of the United States and Texas Constitutions."

Judge Jorge Solis ruled that the city charter and code of ethics provision at issue did not violate Phillps' rights under the First Amendment "…because the city had key governmental interests that outweighed Phillip's interest in his candidacy."

State lawmakers have since made a new law that lets municipal employees keep their jobs while seeking election.

"I think the panel of the Fifth Circuit really understood that the policy has changed here in Texas," said Kratovil.

The case will be heard this month before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Phillips running in a partisan election could compromise the integrity and impartiality of uniformed services, argued assistant city attorney Nicholas Palmer.

"He was hoping that the very citizens he is sworn to provide emergency medical and fire services to, would elect him to office," said Palmer.

Phillips, who was injured in a house explosion fighting a fire, is hoping that the Fifth Circuit sees it differently.

"You expect that, you know, the city would have some loyalty towards you, but then you get axed and you get cut out and they treat you like you're a stranger," said Phillips.

Since the state law passed allowing a city employee to run for office, one has done so in Dallas, running for the city council, but that's not a partisan position.

The city would not talk to FOX 4 about the pending case, but in an email, told FOX 4 that early on in the litigation, the city offered Phillips his job back, but without his back pay, which is now at three years.

He refused the offer.


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