Judge allows Fletcher political firing case to go forward

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday that portions of a federal lawsuit against Gov. Ernie Fletcher and members of his administration can go forward.

Though Judge Joseph M. Hood dismissed several parts of the lawsuit filed by Transportation Cabinet member Michael Duncan, Hood said there is an issue over whether Duncan's right to free speech and freedom of association were violated.

Duncan claims he was illegally fired because he supported Democrat Ben Chandler in the 2003 gubernatorial election.

Though Hood said there is "scant" evidence that Duncan was fired for supporting Chandler, "there is sufficient evidence to create genuine issue of material fact regarding the reason for Plaintiff's termination," Hood wrote in his 19-page order.

Hood lifted a stay of discovery in the case, meaning Fletcher could be deposed in the middle of his re-election campaign. Fletcher faces Democratic challenger Steve Beshear on Nov. 6.

Stephen Pitt, Fletcher's attorney, said it is "highly unlikely" Fletcher would be questioned before the election and isn't sure if he will appeal the decision.

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