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HARRIS v. JOHNSON

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION


December 13, 1989

DENNIS HARRIS, Plaintiff
v.
WILLIAM C. "BUD" JOHNSON, Defendant

Shadur, United States District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHADUR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MILTON I. SHADUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Dennis Harris ("Harris") has just sued William "Bud" Johnson ("Johnson") under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("Section 1983"), charging Harris' constitutional rights were violated when he was fired as Chief of Police for the City of Plano. Based on its initial review of Harris' Complaint, *fn1" this Court sua sponte directs his counsel to address the obvious threshold problem presented by his claim as asserted.

 Harris complains that Johnson (Plano's Mayor) *fn2" discharged Harris from his post as Chief of Police (Complaint para. 14), then explained the charges against Harris to a closed meeting Johnson held with the Plano City Council (Complaint paras. 16-19). Harris invokes federal jurisdiction under Section 1983 on the basis that Johnson's action deprived Harris "of a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest without due process of law" (Complaint para. 3).

 Because Harris does not assert deprivation of a property interest as the result of his firing, the only reasonable inference from the Complaint is that his service as Chief of Police was entirely at will, rather than a tenured position (see, e.g., Jungels v. Pierce, 825 F.2d 1127, 1130 (7th Cir. 1987) and cases cited there). *fn3" That being the case, the Section 1983 jurisprudence as to such property deprivations does not come into play. *fn4" Instead Harris' hope for federal jurisdiction and federal relief must look to Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 47 L. Ed. 2d 405, 96 S. Ct. 1155 (1976) and its progeny.

 But the Paul v. Davis message is crystal-clear: Liberty deprivations via job terminations must rest on "stigma plus" to be actionable under Section 1983 (id. at 701-10; and see, e.g., among the many cases following Paul v. Davis in explicating and applying that doctrine, Bone v. City of Lafayette, Ind., 763 F.2d 295, 297-99 (7th Cir. 1985)). And all Harris alleges here (Complaint paras. 21-23) is the sort of generalized "stigma" that likely attaches to every individual who is discharged from a job such as the one Harris held. Indeed, Harris actually negates the type of fact pattern that under the case law may provide or may lead to the "plus" required by Paul v. Davis : a defamation linked with firing that effectively forecloses the employee from future employment -- and thus constitutes a deprivation of that liberty interest (see Larry v. Lawler, 605 F.2d 954, 958 (7th Cir. 1978)). Here not only was the entire discussion about the charges against Harris conducted at a nonpublic meeting, but any documents setting out those charges were destroyed by shredding (Complaint para. 20).

 Accordingly Harris' Complaint appears to carry its own death warrant in Section 1983 terms. Unless on or before December 27, 1989 Harris files in this Court's chambers an Amended Complaint (or a memorandum in support of the existing Complaint) setting forth a viable basis for proceeding in this federal forum, this action will be dismissed forthwith for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. *fn5"

 Date: December 13, 1989


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