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CEKO v. MARTIN

December 27, 1990

JOHN CEKO, Plaintiff,
v.
LEROY MARTIN, Superintendent of Police, HUBERT W. HOLTON, Director of Personnel, STEVEN STANARD, Ph.D., and THE CITY OF CHICAGO, a Municipal Corporation, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUA

 NICHOLAS J. BUA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiff, a long-time employee of the Chicago Police Department (the "Police Department"), commenced this lawsuit after the Police Department placed him on an unpaid medical leave of absence. Plaintiff contends that he was not afforded due process before he was placed on sick leave. Three of the named defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's two-count complaint. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied with respect to Count I and granted with respect to Count II.

 I. FACTS

 Over the course of his employment with the Police Department, plaintiff John Ceko experienced periods of emotional and psychological instability. Despite this history of "emotional disarray" (as characterized by his treating physician), Ceko began serving as a "911" emergency dispatcher on May 1, 1989.

 On October 24, 1989, only five months after he started his new position, Ceko was hospitalized for treatment of a psychological disorder. Unable to continue working, Ceko was placed on the Police Department's "medical rolls." Ceko's employee benefits provided for paid sick leave; thus, he continued to receive his full salary while on the medical rolls. On November 9, 1989, however, Ceko's leave status was altered to "excused with no pay" for medical reasons. Later that month, Dr. Dixon Spivy (Ceko's treating physician) advised the Police Department that Ceko was medically fit to return to work as of December 8, 1989. Ceko also notified the Police Department that he was able to resume his duties as a 911 dispatcher on the date recommended by his doctor.

 On December 11, 1989, the Director of Personnel for the Police Department, Hubert Holton, asked Ceko to submit to a physical examination by Dr. Steven Stanard. Ceko agreed to the examination. Dr. Stanard administered several tests, and issued his report on January 10, 1990. Based on his medical findings, Dr. Stanard concluded that Ceko was psychologically unfit to resume his previous duties as a 911 dispatcher, but that Ceko could return to work in a clerical position. On January 26, 1990, Dr. Spivy again informed the Police Department that Ceko was physically able to assume the duties of a 911 dispatcher -- provided, however, that Ceko takes medication and maintains regular doctor appointments. The Police Department never responded to Dr. Spivy's January 26 letter.

 In a letter dated May 9, 1990, Holton informed Ceko that the Police Department had placed him on a one-year involuntary leave of absence. Holton stated that the leave of absence took effect on May 7, 1990. Shortly after being placed on involuntary leave of absence, Ceko filed this lawsuit against Holton, Dr. Stanard, Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin, and the City of Chicago. *fn1" Ceko contends that defendants violated his constitutional right to due process by failing to provide an opportunity to contest the Police Department's decision to place him on unpaid sick leave. *fn2" Defendants Holton, Martin, and the City now seek dismissal of Ceko's complaint.

 II. DISCUSSION

 In order to maintain a due process claim, Ceko must demonstrate that defendants deprived him of a constitutionally-protected property or liberty interest. Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 343, 48 L. Ed. 2d 684, 96 S. Ct. 2074 (1976); Brown v. City of Lake Geneva, 919 F.2d 1299, 1303 (7th Cir. 1990). Ceko asserts a deprivation of both a property interest and a liberty interest. Ceko alleges, in Count I of his complaint, that he was deprived of his property interest in continued employment, as well as the attendant benefits of such employment. Count II alleges a deprivation of a liberty interest in his "good name and employment prospects." The court will now consider each claim separately. *fn3"

 A. Count I -- Property Interest

 It is well established that an individual cannot assert a property interest in a benefit unless he has a "legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548, 92 S. Ct. 2701 (1972); Lohorn v. Michal, 913 F.2d 327, 335 (7th Cir. 1990). Property interests do not arise from the Constitution; rather, they emanate from sources outside of the Constitution, such as state law. Roth, 408 U.S. at 577; New Burnham Prairie Homes, Inc. v. Village of Burnham, 910 F.2d 1474, 1479 (7th Cir. 1990).

 Ceko contends that he has a property interest "in his continued employment, his salary and the benefits of his employment such as medical insurance, seniority and pension benefits." Verified Complaint, para. 17. According to Ceko, this property interest is created by Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 24, para. 10-1-18.1 (1989), which provides in part:

 
In any municipality of more than 500,000 population, no officer or employee of the police department in the classified civil service of the municipality whose appointment has become complete may be removed or discharged, or suspended for more than 30 days except for cause upon written charges and ...

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