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Lasco v. Richard R. Northern

May 3, 1984


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Springfield Division. No. 78 C 3204 -- J. Waldo Ackerman, Judge.

Cummings, Chief Judge, Wood and Coffey, Circuit Judges.

Author: Coffey

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

The question presented for review is whether the district court properly denied a preliminary injunction to prevent a state agency reorganization and the resulting layoff of the plaintiff. Jurisdiction of this interlocutory appeal is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). The district court's May 26, 1982, order denying injunctive relief is affirmed.

The instant appeal involves a suit brought by the plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution alleging a violation of his employment rights.A brief recitation of the background and history of this case is in order.


In 1976, Lasco was employed as a civil servant with the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy ("Home"). He was given notice that he was being laid off pursuant to a reorganization at the Home. The plaintiff sought to enjoin his layoff contending that his supervisors, who were Democrats, conspired to deprive him of his job because of his political affiliation with a particular faction of the Democratic Party. The fact of this lawsuit are set out in detail in Lasco v. Koch, 428 F. Supp. 468 (S.D. Ill. 1977). At that time the district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the plaintiff's layoff and stayed further exercise of jurisdiction pending consideration by the Illinois Civil Service Commission of the validity of the reorganization and the related question of layoff as a subterfuge for discharge.

Independent of the prior proceedings, in July of 1977, the plaintiff was involved in an altercation with a security guard at the Home.*fn1 Lasco was suspended for failure to cooperate in the investigation and was therefore discharged in August of 1977 for conduct unbecoming a state employee. The plaintiff requested a hearing before the Illinois Civil Service Commission and was reinstated in January of 1978. Upon his return, Lasco allegedly was informed by the defendant Northern that all of his health care and supervisory functions had been transferred to other individuals. The plaintiff then requested an audit of his position which resulted in a downward shift of his employment status from Welfare Executive III to Administrative Assistant II pursuant to the order of defendant William Boys, Director of Personnel for the Illinois Veterans' Home. In response to this action, the plaintiff filed suit in district court alleging the existence of a conspiracy to deny him his employment in violation of the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Various hearings and audits were held, resulting in the plaintiff's reinstatement as a Welfare Executive III. In 1978, the plaintiff filed a complaint asserting that his supervisors, now Republicans, were conspiring to remove him from his position because he was an active member of the Democratic Party. The district court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, reasoning that harassment of a public employee solely because of his political affiliation could be as chilling and restrictive on the exercise of First Amendment rights as the patronage dismissals denounced by the Supreme Court in Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547, 96 S. Ct. 2673 (1976).On April 15, 1982, the Illinois Civil Service Commission adopted the findings of their hearing officer and ruled that the plaintiff be restored to his Welfare Executive III position and that he be permitted to perform the concomitant duties and responsibilities of that position.

However, the plaintiff was notified by letter dated April 14, 1982, that he was being laid off, effective May 15, 1982, as a result of the elimination of the position due to a reorganization necessitated by a lack of funds. The layoff affected the plaintiff and five other employees involved in non-direct patient care. (During this period new individuals were hired to fill positions involved directly with patient care.) The plaintiff filed the instant suit in district court seeking injunctive relief to prevent his layoff.

On May 26, 1982, United States District Court Judge J. Waldo Ackerman denied the plaintiff's request for preliminary injunctive relief. The court noted that the plaintiff was pursuing his administrative remedies and stayed the action pending resolution by the Illinois Civil Service Commission. The court explicitly stated, however, that the order was not intended to reflect in any way on the merits of the plaintiff's case before the Commission. On March 17, 1983, the Commission determined that the plaintiff failed to offer evidence that his layoff was politically motivated. The Commission found that the layoff due to the lack of funds was not a pretext for discharge since the agency's reorganization was proper.


The scope of this appeal is limited to review of the propriety of the lower court's denial of preliminary injunctive relief in May of 1982.The record discloses that the United States District Court has not ruled on the merits of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 claims nor on his various constitutional claims.

As Judge Ackerman correctly recognized, the decision of Ciechon v. City of Chicago, 634 F.2d 1055 (7th Cir. 1980) is germane to the issue presented in this appeal. In that case, our court reversed the grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the suspension of fire department employees prior to a full hearing before the City of Chicago Personnel Board. While the district court in Ciechon found that loss of wages, employee benefits and opportunities for promotion during the suspension period constituted irreparable injury, the court of appeals disagreed. Id. at 1057.

The court began by stating that appellate review of preliminary injunctions is limited in scope and that an order granting an injunction will be set aside "only where it can be said that the discretion vested in the district court with respect to these matters has been improvidently exercised." Id. at 1057 (citations omitted). The court delineated the elements that a movant must establish to obtain a preliminary injunction: "(1) a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable injury and absence of an adequate remedy at law; (3) that the threatened harm to plaintiff outweighs the harm the injunction may cause defendant; and, (4) that the granting of the injunction will not disserve the public interest." Id. at 1057 (citing Local Div. 519, Amalgamated Transit Union v. LaCrosse Municipal Transit Utility, 585 F.2d 1340, 1351 (7th Cir. 1978); Fox Valley Harvestore v. A.O. Smith Harvestore Products, Inc., 545 F.2d 1096, 1097 (7th Cir. 1976); Illinois Migrant Council v. Pilliod, 540 F.2d 1062, 1069 (7th Cir. ...

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