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FEDERAL COURT UPHOLDS FIRING OF SOCIAL SERVICES ATTORNEYS

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that it was not against the law for two Republican attorneys to be fired from the Niagara County Social Services Department for partisan reasons in 1994.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that P. Andrew Vona and Daniel E. Seaman are not entitled to get their jobs back. Since the ouster, Vona has been appointed a deputy corporation counsel in the City of Lockport. Both men also maintain private practices. Seaman is the brother of Assemblyman David E. Seaman, R-Lockport.

They were fired as assistant social services attorneys and replaced by Democrats after the Democrats won control of the Niagara County Legislature in the 1993 election. In January 1994, both men sued the county, claiming that the First Amendment protected them from political dismissal.

In June 1996, U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, presiding in Buffalo, ruled against Vona and Seaman. In a decision issued Wednesday, a three-judge Circuit Court panel agreed with the original ruling.

However, the panel left Seaman's case hanging by a legal thread. He had also claimed that his firing violated state Civil Service Law, a claim Vona did not make.

The appeals court said it was unclear whether Skretny meant to dismiss that argument as well, and sent that part of the case back to the Buffalo judge with instructions to clarify the decision he made last year.

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