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WERTHMAN v. ILLINOIS DEPT. OF MENTAL HEALTH & DEVE

August 24, 1993

MARY JOAN WERTHMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, MARVA ARNOLD and IVAN PAVKOVIC, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.


MORAN


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

Plaintiff Mary Joan Werthman (Werthman) brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and under Illinois law against her employer, defendant Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHØ), and two of its agents, defendants Marva Arnold (Arnold) and Ivan Pavkovic (Pavkovic). Werthman alleges that they discriminated against her (1) because she was suspected of releasing documents to the public critical of DMHØ practices, and (2) because she is a white female. Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint. Their motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 BACKGROUND

 The court assumes the truth of the facts asserted in plaintiff's complaint.

 Plaintiff was a mental health professional at the Read Mental Health Facility, an institution operated by DMH/DD. In late 1991 a disciplinary document detailing patient abuse by the Read staff was leaked to an independent public interest group. That disclosure and some other incidents that had resulted in negative publicity about Read prompted the Governor's office to order an investigation. The director, the deputy director and the medical director all resigned shortly thereafter, and DMHØ decided that the Read hierarchy would have to be reorganized.

 Arnold was appointed acting superintendent of Read, even though plaintiff was more qualified. At the same time that she was denied the acting superintendent post plaintiff was told that she was suspected of leaking the disciplinary document. In her complaint plaintiff neither admits nor denies having done so. About two months later Arnold terminated plaintiff's position as assistant superintendent in charge of adult units. Another Read administrator, who was male, was then given substantially similar responsibilities. Plaintiff had no opportunity to apply for the position he received. No other high-ranking administrator was similarly demoted.

 Shortly before plaintiff's demotion Arnold made racially derogatory remarks toward plaintiff and accused her of giving preferential treatment to white employees. After the demotion plaintiff filed discrimination complaints with DMHØ and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Within days of plaintiff's filing of her complaints, Arnold demanded that she appear for a performance evaluation. Arnold did not allow plaintiff to participate in the evaluation process and plaintiff received downgrades in most performance categories. That result came as a surprise to plaintiff. Her work generally had been well received and Arnold had told her earlier that Arnold lacked sufficient knowledge of her work to evaluate her. In their earlier conversation Arnold had asked plaintiff to prepare her own evaluation.

 At some point plaintiff stopped working at Read. The complaint does not describe the circumstances surrounding her departure but refers to it variously as her "termination" and her "constructive discharge."

 DISCUSSION

 Eleventh Amendment Issues

 The Eleventh Amendment states: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or subjects of any Foreign State." The amendment has spawned a century of complicated and, on occasion, inconsistent caselaw. It is a subject that has engaged and frustrated thousands of lawyers, judges, students and professors. Over the last two decades, however, the Supreme Court has issued several decisions whose holdings can be applied with relative ease in this case. The Supreme Court has construed the Eleventh Amendment as barring most lawsuits against state governments and state officials, and under its precedents many of plaintiff's claims must be dismissed.

 Supreme Court precedent distinguishes between federal claims that seek injunctive relief from state officers and federal claims that seek damage awards to be paid out of state treasuries. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 677, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1974). The former are permitted but the latter usually are not. Id. Thus, in this case plaintiff may proceed with her claims for injunctive relief pursuant to § 1983 and § 1985 against Arnold or Pavkovic, in their official capacities.

 In theory, Congress may enact statutes that authorize suits for damages against state governments, abrogating the states' Eleventh Amendment immunities on a statute-by-statute basis, but such suits are permitted only if Congress explicitly indicates its desire to extend coverage of the statute in question to state governments. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 344, 59 L. Ed. 2d 358, 99 S. Ct. 1139 (1979). The statutory language must be unmistakably clear before an intent to abrogate the states' immunities will be recognized. Because Congress failed to say explicitly, when it enacted § 1983, that state governments could be proper defendants under that statute, § 1983 claims are not permitted against state governments. Id. at 345. Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against DMHØ and her § 1983 claims for damages against Arnold and Pavkovic in their official capacities are therefore dismissed. Like § 1983, § 1985 contains no express abrogation of Eleventh Amendment immunity, and plaintiff's § 1985 claims against DMHØ and her § 1985 claims for damages against Arnold and Pavkovic in their official capacities are dismissed as well. See Rucker v. Higher Educational Aids Board, 669 F.2d 1179, 1184 (7th Cir. 1982). The Eleventh Amendment does not shield the state from damage claims brought under Title VII, however, because Congress explicitly included state governments within the purview of the statute. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 448-49, 49 L. Ed. 2d 614, 96 S. Ct. 2666 (1976).

 Although the Supreme Court has recognized certain means by which federal claims can be pursued in federal court against states or state officials in their official capacities, it has established a rule with respect to suits under state law that cannot be bent or circumvented. Federal courts cannot hear any state law claims, whether for damages or for injunctive relief, against states or state officials in their official capacities. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 120-21, 79 L. Ed. 2d 67, 104 S. Ct. 900 ...


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