Thursday, July 15, 2004

Puerto Rico's Political Parties' Shenanigans

In Sánchez-López v. Governmental Development Bank, No. 03-1865 (1st Cir. July 15, 2004), the First Circuit displays a full grasp of the shenanigans of Puerto Rico's mayor political parties. These things happen in many other places, but is it this bad anywhere else?

Puerto Rico has two major political parties that dominate the electoral landscape: the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Progressive Party (NPP). Control of the government periodically switches between the two parties. Entirely too often, the political party assuming office terminates the employment of public employees who are affiliated with the party going out of power and then fills those vacancies with its own members. By the same token, the outgoing party attempts to secure the continued tenure of its members in public jobs through a variety of devices, such as reclassifying policy-type appointments as career positions or making appointments in violation of Puerto Rico law.


Despite the thirty years since Elrod, administrations in Puerto Rico have continued to take employment actions against public employees because of their political affiliations. With each change in administration -- at both the commonwealth and municipal levels -- the federal district courts in Puerto Rico are flooded with hundreds of political discrimination cases, many of which are appealed. See, e.g., Gomez v. Rivera Rodriguez, 344 F.3d 103 (1st Cir. 2003) (claims by 24 NPP members who were fired from municipal jobs after the PDP won the 2000 mayoral election in Gurabo); Acevedo-Garcia v. Vera-Monroig, 351 F.3d 547 (1st Cir. 2003) (claims by 82 NPP members who were fired from municipal jobs after the PDP assumed power following the 1996 mayoral election in Adjuntas); Acosta-Orozco v. Rodriguez-de-Rivera, 132 F.3d 97 (1st Cir. 1997) (claims by six PDP members who were fired after the NPP won the 1992 general election); Kauffman v. P.R. Tel. Co., 841 F.2d 1169 (1st Cir. 1988) (claims by ten NPP members who were fired after the PDP won the 1984 general election). The practice is so pervasive that jury awards in cases of political discrimination threaten to bankrupt local governments in Puerto Rico. See Acevedo-Garcia v. Vera-Monroig, 368 F.3d 49, 55 n.7 (1st Cir. 2004) (verdict exceeded town budget). And yet the culture of political discrimination continues.

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