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Webster v. Redmond

decided: May 22, 1979.


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 72-3005 -- George N. Leighton, Judge.

Before Swygert and Sprecher, Circuit Judges, and Noland, District Judge.*fn1

Author: Swygert

This appeal concerns an alleged employment discrimination. The plaintiff, a black schoolteacher in the Chicago public school system, claims that he was the victim of such discrimination at the hands of the Chicago Board of Education.

The threshold issue is whether the Board of Education deprived the plaintiff of a protectable liberty or property interest when it refused to promote him to the position of principal. The district court found that the plaintiff had been deprived of both a liberty and a property interest without due process of law. Because we find no protectable interest to be implicated in this case, we reverse. On the other hand, we affirm the district court's entry of judgment for the defendants as to plaintiff's claims based on racial discrimination in employment.


Douglas Warren Webster is currently a public schoolteacher employed by the City of Chicago, and except for a brief period of suspension, he has been so employed since 1953. In August of 1970 Webster received a principal's certificate, having taken and passed the examination established by the Board of Examiners for the Board of Education of the City of Chicago.

In January 1971, while he was a teacher in a school maintained by the Board of Education at the Cook County Jail, Webster was arrested and later indicted for the felony of being the receiver of stolen property. As a result of his arrest, Webster was suspended from his teaching duties by the General Superintendent of Schools.

On March 5, 1971 Webster's attorney moved the state trial court to suppress evidence seized at the time of his arrest, alleging that the search of his apartment conducted at that time had been conducted in violation of his constitutional rights. The court sustained the motion and later ordered that the indictment of Webster be stricken.*fn2

Webster then demanded reinstatement of his teaching position, and in May of 1971 he instituted a mandamus action in state court to this end. That action was compromised by the parties on the basis of plaintiff's reinstatement to a teaching position with backpay. Webster was subsequently reinstated, but was transferred from the Cook County Jail program to a teaching position at Whittier School in Chicago.

In the fall of 1971 Webster was recommended by a local principal nominating committee for the principalship of Delano Elementary School. This nomination was processed through the proper channels and resulted in the recommendation of Webster by the General Superintendent to the Board of Education. The Board met in executive session on January 14, 1972 to consider the promotion.

After Webster's name had been proposed and the information concerning his career as a teacher had been distributed to the Board, a deputy superintendent reviewed for the Board the arrest and indictment. The Board's attorney supplemented these remarks regarding the circumstances involved and informed the Board of the granting of the suppression motion and the striking of the indictment. The Board then voted against the promotion by a vote of six to four, with one abstention.*fn3

In keeping with the Board's policy, no public disclosure was made regarding the failure to approve the promotion. When representatives of the Delano School sought information, they were told that the Board knew facts which they did not. When Webster met with the deputy Superintendent on January 19, 1972, he was not told the reasons for the Board's failure to approve his promotion.

Following the January disapproval, Webster was nominated by the local principal nominating committee of the Doolittle East Elementary School. During an executive session of the Board on April 26, 1972, the General Superintendent sought the consensus of the Board regarding this nomination. The Board voted down a motion to give consideration to Webster's promotion to the rank of principal without prejudice. Perceiving that there was not "a reasonable likelihood of appointment by the Board," the General Superintendent did not recommend Webster for promotion to the Doolittle East principalship.

After the April meeting, members of the Doolittle East committee made numerous attempts to ascertain the reasons behind the failure to promote Webster. In November 1972 a member of the Board gave committee members her opinion that Webster would not be promoted to the principalship of any school, but she declined to state the reasons for her view.

On November 29, 1972 Webster instituted this action, which was tried to the court without a jury. The case against certain defendants, primarily those who had been appointed to the Board after the April 26, 1972 meeting, was dismissed at the close of plaintiff's case. Plaintiff's claims of racial discrimination were dismissed as to all defendants at the close of the evidence. Judgment against the plaintiff was entered in favor of three defendants who had voted for Webster's promotion at the January 14, 1972 meeting of the Board. Judgment for the plaintiff and against the remaining defendants was entered on the grounds that they had deprived Webster of his property and liberty in violation of the ...

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