Vagos Insignia Case

August 13, 2016

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Vagos Insignia Case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling that a former Vago named Ronald Godwin could be fired from his job at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility in Grants Pass, Oregon because sometimes “on special occasions, he wore clothes with a Vagos patch.”

Godwin worked at the youth lockup for 14 years. He served as the facility’s Volunteer Coordinator, Religious Services Director and Chaplain. He was an active member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club when he was hired.

Godwin retired from the club in 2008. He received the “Director’s Award of Excellence” for his service at Rogue Valley in April 2010, He was fired four months later after unnamed officers from the Grants Pass Police Department told facility and youth authority managers “that they wanted and expected Mr. Godwin to be fired from his position at RVYCF because of his alleged motorcycle club membership.”

Federal Suit

His termination, in writing, was “based on (his) recent activities/involvement with the Vagos Organization.” After he was fired he went to work for a local taxi company “and at the urging of the Grants Pass Police, Mr. Godwin was fired from that position as well.”

He filed suit in federal court against the correctional facility, the Oregon Youth Authority and the City of Grants Pass in March 2012. He complained that he was terminated “for exercising his First Amendment rights to free association and free speech…for the deprivation of due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment…and for breach of contract” because at the time he was fired his employment contract had not yet expired.

On December 20, 2013, a federal district judge named Owen M. Panner issued s summary judgment against Godwin and dismissed the suit. Godwin appealed and Wednesday the appeals court ordered that the case should go back to Panner’s court and proceed.

The Appeal

Because Godwin was a public employee, his rights of free expression are more limited by federal case law than the free speech rights of a man in the streets but his rights are broader at work than those of private employees. The court ruled that Godwin was free to wear clothing that featured the Vagos insignia because his opinions, expressed through the insignia, touched “upon a matter of public concern.”

Quoting an earlier decision in a well known case titled Sammartano v. First Judicial District Court, the appeals court ruled that “Wearing motorcycle club insignia is expressive conduct because it conveys a message that the wearer supports or is proud to be affiliated with the organization.”

The defendants in the case had argued that the Vagos were widely perceived to be a “criminal organization.” But, the appeals judges found that only strengthened Godwin’s case because “the criminality of motorcycle clubs is a topic of ‘legitimate news interest’” upon which Godwin was free to comment.

The decision was split among the three judges. Harry Pregerson and John B. Owens voted to return the case to the lower court. Judge Carlos Bea dissented and quoted the late Antonin Scalia, who quipped in a dissent in a similar case, “No law enforcement agency is required by the First Amendment to permit one of its employees to ‘ride with the cops and cheer for the robbers.’”

For the time being, Godwin still enjoys the right to cheer for the Vagos. The case officially was returned to the lower court on Friday.


16 Responses to “Vagos Insignia Case”

  1. Fr. Abraham Says:

    Good for Mr. Godwin. I’m glad that more and more people are fighting back in court against this sort of egregious and disturbing stifling of 1st Amendment rights by the very people who are paid to enforce the law.

    Sometimes, the pigs need to get paperfucked and courtslapped when they try to hop outside of their lane.

    I only wish he was suing the cops responsible for this situation, instead of just the city who hired them, as it would be hard to claim they were “acting within the scope of their duties” for doing something illegal and unconstitutional.

  2. Dan-O Says:

    It’s disgusting beyond comprehension how law enforcement is able to exert their influence on a US citizen and go far enough *twice* to convince his employer to fire him based on affiliation with a motorcycle club. This keeps happening because apathy in the general public allows it to. The mass media, which is controlled by the government, which in turn controls law enforcement, manipulates and shapes the reality of the sheeple, and rarely, if ever, do they question the “authorities.” Times have changed. Times are changing.

  3. IronRider Says:

    So Godwin was a Vagos member BEFORE he joined the corrections department and ceased to be A Vagos Active member in 2008. In his work with the correction department at this youth facility Godwin works well liked, respected and the man was commended for it.

    Despite Godwin’s steady and excellent work at the Youth facility the Police decided because Godwin Wore a Vagos shirt that he needed to lose his job, once were he worked with troubled youth for 14 years and had a positive influence at that Youth Facility, but that apparently didn’t mean a thing to the Police because they bullied Godwin’s superiors to fire him.

    Now were the Police content that they had done their duty and Godwin fired from his job working at youth facility? Nope…Not a fucking bit. Apparently Godwin’s new career at a Taxi company was still bringing a bad aura as far as the Police were concerned, so they put the pressure on the management at the taxi company to have Godwin fired.

    Now let’s see Godwin is a former Vagos member, not active in the club but still has pride in the brotherhood he shared for many years while an active member and now as a non active member. From what we have read Godwin in his career at the Youth facility has excelled while working with trouble youth for their betterment and Godwin’s work has been recognized as such, but the Police wanted Godwin punished and fired because Of his pride inbelonging to the brotherhood of the Vagos.

    So Godwin wasn’t causing trouble, wasn’t raising hell, was committing no crimes, was dealing drugs or doing anything illegal in any way form or fashion. Yet the Police decided on their own ( or maybe with some help from a federal agency ~wink wink~ ) Godwin must be harassed and his livelihood thrown in turmoil not once but twice for reasons only known to the Police.

    It is painfully obvious that the Police had an agenda and it wasnt because they were worried Godwin was corrupting or promoting the MC life to the kids at that youth facility, far from it from all appearances.

    This is pure discrimination, and I am sorry but fuck the dissenting judges and the view that it’s too bad for Godwin. Godwin did absolutely fuck all to warrant the police departments attention, no crime, no problems, apparently not even a traffic ticket and Godwin seems to have been an above average employee who provided troubled youth with positive reinforcement in a tough environment for many years.

    The fact that the Police went out of their way not once but twice to exert pressure through coercion to have Godwin terminated twice shows that Godwin was discriminated against and harassed and had a career he loved and financial stability thrown into the wind because of an article of clothing.

    The hypocrisy of some courts and the judges sitting in them to decide not to follow the rights enshrined that every person is entitled to under the constitution and the laws governing workplace discrimination never minds the country, state, and city own statues on discrimination is an abomination and shows how Judges and their impartiality and ability to follow the rule of law are far removed and that some Judges seem to have forgotten the oath they took and were sworn to uphold.

    It’s plain to see that this is the case of either this Police department deciding to go on a vendetta on it’s own or sat the behest of a state or federal agency as part of an operation.

    Godwin in my opinion has suffered economic and personal loss for no other reason than who he was as a member and former member of an MC. I personally hope Godwin sues the pants of the Police and city for their egregious conduct they displayed in trying to ruin Godwin’s reputation and financial well being.

    It is shit like this that make the public not trust the police, because the Police seem to flout and break the law continuously and unabated. When Godwin sues the Police department, I cant wait for it to come out why the Police decided to ruin a man’s life. Godwin will take the city to the cleaners

    So I gather groups like the Bloods, Crips, MS13. and all the other street gangs dont present a conspiracy, so despite the former groups. Or is it because they dot know who the fuck any of the former are and it doesnt look as good with a bunch of nobodies on the 6″ o clock news.

    Now a former or still active biker with that club wear or a cut I am going to bet
    that the cops love MC member, supporters or prospects because they can play it up because the MC members and supporters are viable and look great on the 6’o clock news.

    It’s a fucking embarrassment to the country and the people who sacrificed for it that when it comes to their own, those very citizens are harassed and have to face trumped up attacks all in support of someone else’s agaenda

  4. scrape Says:

    So let me get this straight. cops can join a cop club and dress like a biker on the weekend but a REAL 1% WILL HAVE HIS LIVELIHOOD TAKEN FROM HIM? TOTAL BS.

  5. Gandalf Says:

    SCALIA IS DEAD! Killary strangled Him in His sleep at a Motel 6 next to a Flying J in Texas. Oh Well….

  6. Ben Says:

    An outlaw motorcycle member, who’s a Religious Services Director and Chaplain at a youth correctional facility. Does he dispense toy Harley’s to the kids?

  7. roach Says:

    Dear Uncle Sam,

    Please clean up your own house before trashing mine.

    Sincerely, roach.

  8. Head Chingon Says:

    @ Ben
    what’s your point dickhead?

  9. BMW Says:

    The actions of the corrupt LEO, if as described, would constitute a conspiracy to deprive a citizen of his constitutionally protected civil rights. This seems to be a pattern similar to the actions of the FBI in their vicious COINTELPRO program. Under COINTELPRO, during the fifties, sixties and seventies, local LEO and other mindless minions of a hidden group of federal “right-think” FBI, lead at the time by a small, secret cross-dressing, homosexual cabal, repeatedly tried to force employers to fire workers who had opinions different from those expressed by the “elites”and Big Bus. (these opinions consisted in the main of expressing ideas that most Americans now agree with – such as equal pay for equal work, pensions, jobs and a demand that tax money not be directly transferred to giant corporations as “expenditures for defense”). We now know that the program cost thousands of loyal American: their jobs, their homes, their families –and in several cases their lives.

    Darn, that sounds exactly like what happened in Whaco…


  10. Ben Says:

    @ Chingon

    Don’t ask about the point of my dick.

  11. roach Says:

    I expect Mr. Godwin chose his profession to do good in his community, to try to turn the youth in his community and others onto the right path. There’s no telling how much thanks he received from inmates and their parents for the good he did of turning these underaged inmates, who by the way were probably inside for a joint of a class A narcotic like marijuana, and setting them on the right path. If there were a screening process in place for hiring people for these jobs and careers there would probably be more Godwins than Durans, and there, in my disturbed and disalusioned opinion would be a whole lot less repeat offenders.

    Respects, roach

  12. Phuquehed Says:

    The only good pigs, are those not breathing. Rats and cowards, one and all. Fuck the pigs, the largest, most criminal *gang* in the USA.

  13. Savage1 Says:

    Damn dude is a correctional officer aka PIG and riding with these dudes SMFH

  14. The dude Says:

    @savage1 that particular charter, grants pass, has/had a former police officer as a member too..

  15. the dude Says:

    ron godwin is no outlaw….lol….lmfao.

  16. Sieg Says:

    Reading comprehension is a good thing.

    “Godwin retired from the club in 2008.”


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