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Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois

decided: February 16, 1989.

CYNTHIA RUTAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANTS
v.
REPUBLICAN PARTY OF ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division, No. 85 C 2369 -- Harold A. Barker, Chief Judge.

Bauer, Chief Judge, Cummings, Cudahy, Posner, Coffey, Easterbrook, Ripple, Manion and Kanne, Circuit Judges.*fn*

Author: Manion

MANION, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs appeal the district court's dismissal of their complaint challenging a public employer's use of political considerations in hiring, rehiring, transferring and promoting employees. See Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 641 F. Supp. 249 (C.D. Ill. 1986). We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I.

NATURE OF THE CASE

In their complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Governor James R. Thompson of Illinois, the Republican Party of Illinois, and various state and Republican Party officials use political considerations in hiring, rehiring from layoffs, transferring, and promoting state employees under Governor Thompson's jurisdiction. Because we are reviewing the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, we take the allegations in the complaint as true. See LaSalle National Bank of Chicago v. County of DuPage, 777 F.2d 377, 379 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1170, 106 S. Ct. 2892, 90 L. Ed. 2d 979 (1986).

According to the detailed complaint, approximately 60,000 state employees work in more than fifty "departments, boards and commissions under the jurisdiction" of Governor Thompson. On November 12, 1980, Governor Thompson issued an executive order "which requires his personal approval or that of a designee before any individual may be hired or promoted." The executive order, which is attached to the complaint, states:

HIRING FREEZE

Effective at the close of business today, November 12, 1980, no agency, department, bureau, board or commission subject to the control or direction of the Governor shall hire any employee, fill any vacancy, create any new position or take any other action which will result in increases, or the maintenance of present levels, in State employment, including personal service contracts. All hiring is frozen. There will be no exceptions to this order without my express permission after submission of appropriate requests to my office.

(emphasis in original). Governor Thompson has assigned power over significant employment decisions to the "Governor's Office of Personnel." Plaintiffs contend that the Office of Personnel's employment decisions are

This patronage employment system, plaintiffs claim, creates a significant political advantage "in favor of the 'ins,' i.e., Defendant James Thompson and his political allies, and against the 'outs,' i.e., those who may wish to challenge him in elections."

The defendants are Governor Thompson, the Illinois Republican Party, seven current or former state officials and two Republican Party officials. Plaintiffs sued two of the state officials as class representatives, one as a representative of all "directors, heads or chief executive officers . . . since 1981" of state agencies under the Governor's jurisdiction and the other as a representative of all persons who acted as "liaisons" between those state agencies and the Governor's Office of Personnel. Plaintiffs sued the Republican Party officials as representatives of the class of "all Republican State Central Committee and County Central Committee officials and members . . . since February 1, 1981."

Plaintiffs brought this action both as individuals and as representatives of six different classes. These classes are: (1) voters; (2) taxpayers; (3) politically unacceptable employees denied promotions; (4) politically unacceptable employees denied transfers; (5) politically unacceptable employees who have not been rehired after being laid off; and (6) politically unacceptable employment applicants who have applied for but not received a job.

Plaintiff Cynthia Rutan has worked for the Department of Rehabilitative Services since 1974. She has neither been active in the Republican Party nor supported Republican candidates. Since 1981, Rutan has applied for promotion into supervisory positions in the Department of Rehabilitative Services. Defendants allegedly filled each of these supervisory positions with someone less qualified but "favored on a political basis by the Governor's Office of Personnel." Rutan sued on her own behalf and as a class representative of those denied promotions as a result of the patronage system.

Plaintiff Franklin Taylor works for the Department of Transportation. He does not support the Republican Party. In 1983, Taylor applied for a promotion. A less qualified person, whom the Fulton County Republican Party supported, received the promotion. Taylor subsequently requested a transfer to a different county. Taylor was allegedly advised that he was not transferred because the Republican Party chairmen of Fulton and Schuyler Counties opposed the transfer. He sued on his own behalf and as a class representative of those denied promotions and transfers as a result of the patronage system.

Plaintiff Ricky Standefer was hired in a temporary position at the state garage in Springfield in May, 1984. In November of that year he and five other employees were laid off. The five other employees, who had Republican Party support, were offered other state jobs. Standefer, who had voted in the Democratic primary, was not. He sued on his own behalf and as a class representative of those who, as a result of the patronage system, have not been rehired after being laid off.

Plaintiff Dan O'Brien was employed as a "Dietary Manager I" at the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities' Lincoln Development Center. O'Brien has voted only once in a primary, and that was in a Democratic Party primary. O'Brien was laid off on April 5, 1983. Under the "Rules of the Department of Central Management Services," a laid-off employee can be recalled within two years. If recalled, the employee's benefits continue and he does not lose seniority. In December of 1984, an administrator at the Lincoln Development Center told O'Brien that he would be recalled. The administrator stated, however, that he was waiting to receive the necessary exception to Governor Thompson's hiring freeze. In February of 1985, O'Brien was told that the Governor's Office had denied him an exception to the freeze. "Several months" after being laid off, O'Brien attempted to and "ultimately" did receive employment with the Department of Corrections. He obtained this job after obtaining the support of the Chairman of the Logan County Republican Party. This job paid less money than his previous job. O'Brien sued on his own behalf and as a class representative of those who, as a result of the patronage system, have not been rehired after being laid off.

Plaintiff James Moore "has sought employment with the State of Illinois particularly with the Department of Corrections" since 1978. In 1980, Moore received a letter from a Republican state representative informing him that he would have to "receive the endorsement of the Republican Party in Polk County before I can refer your name to the Governor's office." Moore alleges that while he was attempting to obtain a position with the State, the son of the chairman of the Polk County Republican Central Committee, the "son-in-law of the Vice-chairman and precinct committeewoman of the Polk County Republican Central Committee," and a Republican precinct committeeman were hired by the State in positions for which Moore was qualified. Moore sued on his own behalf and on behalf of all those denied employment as a result of the patronage system.

Plaintiffs also brought claims as voters and taxpayers. They claimed to represent a class of voters "who are entitled to cast their votes and use the election process to change and influence the direction of government and who have an interest in having a voice in government of equal effectiveness with other voters." They also claimed to represent a class of taxpayers who "are entitled to have monies provided by the taxpayers of Illinois spent only for State purposes and not spent on the operation and maintenance of a State political patronage system." As voters, plaintiffs claimed that the patronage system has diminished the value of their votes, thus denying them "a voice in government of equal effectiveness with other voters." As taxpayers, plaintiffs claimed to have been deprived of tax "monies . . . which have been expended for the support of the patronage system and not for a governmental purpose."

Plaintiffs sought relief under numerous federal and state law theories. See Rutan, 641 F. Supp. at 252-59. On appeal we are concerned with two: (1) their claims as employees or potential employees that the patronage system violated their rights under the First Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment; and (2) their claims as voters that the patronage employment system violated the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them equal access and effectiveness in elections.*fn1 As relief, plaintiffs sought over a billion dollars in damages and transfer of the Governor's control over the state employment system to a federal receiver.

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the ground that it failed to state a claim for relief. The district court granted defendants' motion. See Rutan, 641 F. Supp. 249 (C.D.Ill. 1986). This appeal ensued.

II.

ANALYSIS

A. The District Court's Failure to Consider the Class Action Question.

Before addressing the substantive issues raised on this appeal, we must first address the district court's failure to consider whether plaintiffs may properly bring this case as a class action. The district court dismissed the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted but did not first consider whether the action may be properly brought as a class action. This violates Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1), which requires the district court to address the issue of class certification "as soon as practicable." See Hickey v. Duffy, 827 F.2d 234, 237 (7th Cir. 1987); Bennett v. Tucker, 827 F.2d 63, 66-67 (7th Cir. 1987). The district court's failure to address the class action issue does not deprive us of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1291. The district court's order dismissed the suit in its entirety, leaving nothing to be decided in that court. See Hickey, 827 F.2d at 238; see also ...


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