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Cornell First Amendment Clinic Secures Reinstatement of McCorkle and Maclean to Geneva Police Budget Advisory Board

GENEVA, N.Y. – The Geneva City Council reinstated James McCorkle and Robert Maclean to the City’s Police Budget Advisory Board Wednesday evening, December 7, 2022. Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic negotiated the reinstatement on behalf of McCorkle and Maclean after the two Board members were removed over the summer.

The City Council approved a resolution reinstating McCorkle and Maclean at its Wednesday meeting on the recommendation of Geneva’s City Attorney, Emil Bove. The resolution acknowledged that the removal of the two Board members came after statements they had made as private individuals regarding the City’s police department and expressing their personal political views.

The First Amendment Clinic became involved after the City Council removed McCorkle and Maclean on a 5 to 4 vote in July. The removal came after McCorkle sent an open letter to the City Council, which was published in The Finger Lakes Times and shared on social media, criticizing the Geneva Police Department and the City Council.  The Clinic alleged the removal violated McCorkle’s and Maclean’s rights to Free Speech and Due Process under the United States and New York State Constitutions.

The resolution temporarily expands the membership of the Police Budget Advisory Board to seven, to account for the two Board members appointed to replace McCorkle and Maclean earlier this year. McCorkle and Maclean will sit on the Board until December 31, 2023.

“This was a necessary and important outcome,” said Christina Neitzey, Stanton Fellow in the First Amendment Clinic. “Public servants—whether they are paid or volunteer—must be free to speak as citizens on issues of public importance without fear of retaliation for criticizing their government or for their political views.”

“Our reinstatement wouldn’t have happened without the pro bono support of the First Amendment Law Clinic, James McCorkle’s courage in speaking out, and the persistence of a few City Councilors.  But for them, the City of Geneva would have gotten away with trampling on the right to free expression by retaliating against speech that is critical of the police.” said Robert Maclean.  “I’m thinking today about all of the people who don’t have the same resources with which to fight retaliation.  Dismissing us was meant to deter others from speaking out; I hope our case instead serves as a firm reminder to the Geneva City Council, the GPD, and law enforcement agencies across the country that critical scrutiny of the police is both protected by law and necessary for a functioning democracy.”

“Retaliation for speaking truth to power can never be tolerated or normalized; to critique, indeed, to call out egregious behavior by police is essential if there are to be civil and human rights, and certainly if we are ever to move beyond the carceral economy that has entrapped us.” said James McCorkle.

The First Amendment Clinic team was led by Clinic students Patrick George, James Pezzullo, and Yifei Yang, supervised by the Clinic’s Stanton Fellow Christina Neitzey and Associate Director and Associate Professor Gautam Hans.

Contact: Christina Neitzey,, (910) 620-5282