Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 77-C-3985 -- George N. Leighton, Judge.
Before Pell, Circuit Judge, Markey, Chief Judge,*fn* and Sprecher, Circuit Judge.
The appellee brought this action seeking injunctive relief and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976). The appellee's due process claim is that his employer, the appellant Board of Education of the City of Chicago (the "Board"), and the appellants Joseph P. Hannon, Raymond C. Principe, and Dr. John O'Donnell, acting in the scope of their employment with the Board in their positions as Superintendent, Director of Teacher Personnel and Staff Psychiatrist, respectively, deprived him of his property interest in his employment without providing a hearing. On May 6, 1980, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the appellee against the Board and Dr. O'Donnell only. Subsequently, on the appellee's motion for a permanent injunction seeking to reinstate the appellee in his former teaching position, the district court ordered the parties on June 6, 1980 to proceed pursuant to the Board's rules to obtain the opinion of an independent physician as to the appellee's mental health. Based on the report subsequently submitted to the court, the court denied the appellee's motion for injunctive relief seeking reinstatement in his former position. Both the appellee and the appellants filed post-trial motions for attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1976). The district court granted the appellee's motion for attorney's fees and denied that of the appellants.
In No. 80-1988, the appellants are seeking reversal of the jury verdict and the district court's rulings on the post-trial motions for attorney's fees. Consolidated with that appeal is the appeal from the district court's denial of the appellee's motion for permanent injunctive relief in No. 81-1527. The threshold issue for our resolution is whether the actions of the Board and its employees did, indeed, result in a deprivation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.
A. The Statutory and Administrative Procedure for Teachers' Leaves of Absence for Illness.
According to Principe's testimony and Board Rule 4-44, when a principal has reason to believe that a teacher has a health problem which may impair his or her efficiency, the principal may send a letter to the Department of Personnel requesting that the General Superintendent schedule a health examination for the employee. If the District Superintendent agrees to the request, a form letter is prepared for the Superintendent's signature. When signed, the letter is then sent to the employee directing him or her to appear for a health examination. If the Board's Medical Director, who is responsible for these health examinations, determines that the employee does not meet the medical standard for teaching, the Director reports the results to the Department of Personnel. The Department then notifies the employee by a form letter of the result of the examination. If the employee failed to meet the medical standard for teaching, the form letter requests the employee to execute an illness leave of absence and to contact the Board's office to arrange another health examination if he or she wishes to obtain reinstatement. The form letter also states:
Please be advised that if you fail to request an illness leave of absence within ten business days from the date of this letter, it will be recommended that your services be terminated in accordance with State Statute.
The procedure for removal of a tenured teacher for cause is governed by the Illinois School Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 122, § 34-85 (1975), which provides, inter alia, an opportunity for a hearing prior to removal with resort to judicial review.
Board Rule 4-33 governs the duration of teachers' leaves of absence for illness. Any teacher who is granted a leave of more than five school months is required to pass a health examination by a medical examiner selected by the Board's General Superintendent prior to reinstatement. If the teacher fails the health examination, he may request an additional medical opinion as provided by Board Rule 4-19. Rule 4-19 allows the teacher to request an additional medical opinion within ten days from the notice of having failed the Board's examination. If the two medical opinions are in disagreement, a third medical opinion is obtained in the same manner and the majority opinion of the examiners is final.
B. The Appellee's Examination and Leave of Absence.
From September, 1964 to March, 1977, the appellee Dusanek was a tenured teacher at Schurz High School in Chicago. On March 2, 1977, Dusanek complained to the principal, Dr. James Maloney, about a student in his class. Dusanek told Dr. Maloney that a new girl in his class was there to disrupt his class and turn the other students against him. He claimed to know her purpose in his class because she had been involved in this same behavior in one of his classes sometime between 1967 and 1969. At that time, according to Dusanek, she had been accompanied by a heavy-set woman in bib overalls about six feet six inches tall. Dr. Maloney asked Dusanek to put his observations in a memorandum, which Dusanek subsequently did. Dr. Maloney also testified that he noted in the meeting that Dusanek was staring over his shoulder and appeared uneasy and apprehensive.
Dr. Maloney then examined the school records of the student about whom Dusanek had complained, from which he determined that she was born in 1960 and appeared to be about sixteen or seventeen years old. He also talked to two teachers about Dusanek. The information they provided about Dusanek tended to support Dr. Maloney's initial impression of Dusanek's psychological condition. As a result of his investigation, Dr. Maloney wrote the Assistant Superintendent of the Personnel Department requesting that the General Superintendent schedule a health examination for Dusanek.
Thereafter Principe, the Director of the Board's Bureau of Teacher Personnel, received Dr. Maloney's letter requesting an examination of Dusanek. After consulting with Dr. Maloney, he directed his secretary to prepare a form letter dated March 14, 1977, to be signed by Superintendent Hannon, directing Dusanek to report to the Board's offices on March 28, 1977, for ...