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Court: Lottery Head Unjustly Fired

January 20, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal appeals court reversed a $2 million judgment for a former Connecticut lottery director on Tuesday, deciding he was fired justly in 1989 for criticizing a change that made the Lotto jackpot harder to win.

J. Blaine Lewis Jr., 78, of Glastonbury, Conn., had claimed his dismissal violated the First Amendment. But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he was fired for what amounted to insubordination.

``A high-ranking policy-making employee does not have, and never has had, a First Amendment right to refuse his employer’s directive to promote agency policy,″ the court ruled.

It said an employee may be forced to choose between supporting supervisors’ programs and ``voicing his personal opinion and perhaps losing his job.″

``That is what has happened here,″ the court said.

As head of the state’s lottery, Lewis was ordered by a state board to oversee an increase in the field of Lotto numbers from 40 to 44, thus making it harder to pick six correct numbers but theoretically creating bigger purses and more publicity.

Lewis refused to keep his objections quiet.

He sued the board that dismissed him, and a jury awarded him $2 million. The appeals court said Lewis was not entitled to any of the money.

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