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ZOOK v. BROWN

October 7, 1983

STEPHEN D. ZOOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH T. BROWN, WILLIAM V. MOSHER, AND, CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Waldo Ackerman, Chief Judge.

ORDER

This case concerns Plaintiff's claim that Defendants have prohibited his speech in violation of his constitutional rights. Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment.

In October of 1981, there was a public debate over ambulance services in Champaign County. The sheriff of Champaign County (Defendant Brown) was privately lobbying local governments to regulate ambulance rates. Apparently, this lobbying effort was not revealed to the general public or other members of the sheriff's department. On November 9, 1982, Plaintiff wrote a letter to a local paper endorsing the services of a particular ambulance service. The letter described the Plaintiff as impressed with the services of the ambulance service, and it described the ambulance service's equipment as "second to none." The letter identified Plaintiff as a ten year veteran of the Champaign County Sheriff's Department. This letter was published in the November 9th edition of the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette.

On November 16, 1982, Plaintiff was issued an official letter of reprimand. The letter of reprimand stated Plaintiff's conduct, in writing the November 9th letter, was in conflict with Sheriff Department Standards 2.19 and 4.4. The letter explained the need for the sheriff's department to maintain an appearance of impartiality in its relations with ambulance services. After Plaintiff requested that Defendant Brown remove the letter of reprimand from his personnel file, Defendant Brown contacted the Champaign County State's Attorney's office for an opinion on the propriety of his actions. The assistant state's attorney, after researching the issue, opined that she could not definitely ascertain the legality or illegality of the sheriff's action. Defendants reprimanded Plaintiff even though there was no actual disruption in the operation of the sheriff's department or damage to its morale.

On December 4, 1981, the sheriff's department amended its rules of conduct to prohibit certain political activity. Rule of Conduct 4-5 states:

Political Activity

  Officers shall not actively engage in political
  party affairs or political campaigns.

While Plaintiff's conduct has not been officially criticized for violating this rule, he seeks a ruling that it is an unconstitutional infringement on his First Amendment rights.

There are three issues to be resolved at the summary judgment stage of this litigation. One, the constitutionality of Defendants' actions in reprimanding Plaintiff's conduct. Two, the availability of injunctive relief against pending sheriff department rules and standards. Three, the availability of a good faith immunity defense for the individual Defendants.

Plaintiff was disciplined for violating Standards 2.19B and 4.4B (currently these dictates are labeled Rules of Conduct 2-27(c) and 4-4(b), respectively). Rule of Conduct 2-27(c) provides:

  Use of name, photograph or title: Officers shall
  not authorize the use of their names,
  photographs, or official titles which identify
  them as officers, in connection with testimonials
  or advertisements of any commodity or commercial
  enterprise, without the written approval of the
  sheriff.

Rule of Conduct 4-4(b) states:

  When acting as representatives of the department,
  officers shall receive approval from the sheriff
  before they address public gatherings, appear on
  radio or television, prepare any articles for
  publication, act as correspondents to a newspaper
  or periodical release, or divulge investigative
  information or any other matters of the
  department. Officers may lecture on police or
  other related subjects only with the prior
  approval of the sheriff.

Plaintiff contends that the application of these rules is an unconstitutional infringement on his ...


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