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April 30, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, United States District Judge.


The plaintiff, Ada Carlisle, sued the defendants, Cook County Sheriff Assistant Chief Thomas Walsh*fn1 and Cook County Sheriff Lieutenant Richard Lopresti under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Carlisle, who is African American, alleges that Walsh and Lopresti violated her First Amendment rights by retaliating against her for complaining of an allegedly discriminatory assignment practice at the Cook County Sheriffs Office. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.


From 1985 to the spring of 1996, Carlisle worked as a Deputy Sheriff at the Harrison and Kedzie courthouse (the "Kedzie courthouse") (in Chicago. (12(M)(3) at 1.) Carlisle's direct superior at the courthouse was Lopresti, who, in turn, was supervised by Walsh. (12(M)(3) Ex. B at 18; 12(M)(3) at 4.) One of Lopresti's weekly responsibilities was assigning deputies to each of the following posts at the Kedzie courthouse: 1) courtroom security for Branch 43, the misdemeanor courtroom; 2) courtroom security for Branch 44, the felony courtroom; and 3) front door security at the civilian entrance. (12(M)(3) at 6-8.)

In September 1995, an African — American judge (the "Judge") was assigned to Branch 43. (12(M)(3) at 5; 12(N)(3)(b) at 1.) Shortly after her arrival, the deputies began complaining about the Judge's demeanor and slowness, which resulted in extended working hours. (12(M)(3) at 8-10.) Carlisle denies complaining about the Judge, and says she had no preference for working with any particular judge. (12(M)(3) at 8.)

In November 1995, Cook County Chief Sheriff Carick informed Walsh and Lopresti that the Judge had requested that deputies Charles Tate and Charles Harp, both of whom are African American, be assigned to her courtroom. (12(M)(3) at 5, 10; 12(M)(3) Ex. B, at 32-33.) As a result, Lopresti stopped his previous practice of rotating deputies among the three posts and primarily assigned Tate, Harp, and Carlisle to work with the Judge in Branch 43. It is unclear why Carlisle was assigned to Branch 43 along with Tate and Harp, (see 12(M)(3) Ex. B at 33), but she perceived the permanent assignments to be racially discriminatory. (12 (M)(3) at 11.)

On November 27, 1995, Carlisle wrote a memorandum to Walsh stating:

(12(N)(3)(b) Ex. F.) After writing this memorandum, and while Carlisle, Harp, and Tate remained assigned primarily to Branch 43, Carlisle states that she confronted Walsh on at least two occasions regarding the matter. On the first occasion, Carlisle claims that she told Walsh that she felt he and Lopresti were discriminating against the African — American sheriffs. (12(N)(3)(b) at 2.) Walsh allegedly replied, "That's the way you look at it but that's the way it's going to be." (12 (N)(3)(b) at 2.) Carlisle later told Walsh and Lopresti that, "We are in the courtroom by oursel[ves]. Most times we don't get a break. They wouldn't send the white sheriffs in to give us a break. They wouldn't even come into the courtroom." (12(N)(3)(b) at 2; 12(M)(3) Ex. A at 63.) Walsh testified that he may have discussed Carlisle's allegations with Lopresti, but no internal investigation was conducted and, in the end, he decided not to change the assignments.*fn3 (12(M)(3) Ex. C, at 39-40.)

On January 18, 1996, Carlisle filed a written charge of race discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), (12(M)(3) at 2), alleging that the courtroom assignments had been segregated since November 1995. (See 12(N)(3)(b) Ex. F.) Although Lopresti recalls receiving a telephone call from a woman investigating the charge, possibly Ms. Gloria Mayfield ("Mayfield"), (see 12(N)(3)(b) at 27-33), the record does not definitively reveal when he and Walsh first learned of Carlisle's EEOC charge.*fn4

In January 1996, the Judge was transferred from the courthouse and Lopresti resumed rotation of the post assignments. (12(M)(3) at 5, 10.) In July 1996, Carlisle says that Mayfield called and informed her that an attorney for the Cook County Sheriff wanted to offer an apology for Walsh's and Lopresti's conduct, and a promise that, the conduct would not be repeated. (12(N)(3)(b) Ex. F at 1.) Carlisle says she rejected the offered apology. (12(N)(3)(b) Ex. F at 1.) Sometime that month, Carlisle was suspended for three days without pay, causing her to lose approximately $345.00 in wages. (12(M)(3) at 14-15.) In addition, three days after she says she rejected the offered apology, Carlisle received written notification that she was being transferred from the Kedzie courthouse to a court located at 1340 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago ("Michigan Ave. courthouse"). (12(N)(3)(b) at 2.) The Michigan Ave. courthouse is three or four miles farther away from Carlisle's house than the Kedzie courthouse, making it inconvenient for her to get to work. (12 (M)(3) at 15.) Carlisle worked at the Michigan Ave. courthouse for three months before her request to return to the Kedzie courthouse was granted. (Id. at 14.)

The parties dispute the reasons why Carlisle was suspended and transferred. Carlisle asserts that Walsh and Lopresti were retaliating against her for her complaints to them and to the EEOC about the assignment practice. In support of her position, Carlisle relies upon the close temporal connection between her refusal to accept the Sheriffs Office's apology and her suspension and transfer. (12 (N)(3)(b) at 2.) She also points to Lopresti's testimony that, for the most part, a deputy is only detailed from one location to another when that deputy is "having a problem working at that facility." While Carlisle denies Lopresti's charge, Lopresti documented Carlisle's shortcomings in a July 3, 1996 memorandum to Walsh recommending that Carlisle be temporarily transferred.*fn5 (12(N)(3)(b) at 5.) As the basis for Carlisle's transfer, Walsh and Lopresti argue that Carlisle was often tardy to work, she was the cause of several written complaints, and others believed her to have poor work habits in general. (12(M)(3) at 12-13; 12(M)(3) Ex. I-J; 12(N)(3)(b) Ex. E.) However, of Carlisle's 46 incidents of tardiness between January 1991, and April 1996, she was late by 15 or fewer minutes in 25; also, only one incident occurred in 1996, and only six occurred in 1995. (12(M)(3) at 12-13; 12(M)(3) Ex. I). A deputy can be up to 15 minutes late to work without being considered tardy unless it is a chronic problem; and, although Lopresti characterized Carlisle as being habitually tardy, he never filed a separate written complaint or counseled her about that conduct. (1-2 (N)(3)(b) at 3.) Additionally, of Carlisle's ten behavioral incidents between September 1993, and July 1996, three occurred in 1996 and one occurred in 1995. (12(M)(3) at 13; 12(M)(3) Ex. J.).

More significantly, Lopresti's memorandum revealed that Carlisle's transfer was motivated, at least in part, by her complaints. (12 (N)(3)(b) Ex.E at el.) Lopresti wrote: "[Carlisle] is currently in a grievance against R/LT. regarding false accusations of improper disciplinary procedure and racism, which accusations she has also used in the past" as part of his basis for concluding that she should be temporarily detailed to another courthouse. (12(N)(3)(b) Ex. E at 1.) Carlisle testified that when she asked Walsh and Lopresti why she was being suspended and transferred, both responded that they did not know — despite the existence of Lopresti's memorandum. (12(M)(3) Ex. A at 118-119.)

As for Carlisle's suspension, Walsh and Lopresti deny that her complaints played any role in her suspension, explaining that Carlisle was suspended because of an argument between her and Lopresti in April 1996. (12(M)(3) at 14.) Following the argument, Lopresti filed a Summary Punishment Action Request ("SPAR") against Carlisle, claiming that she violated Sheriffs Office rules and recommending a three-day suspension without pay. (12(M)(3) at 14-15; 12(M)(3) Ex. J at 27-28.) Carlisle denies Lopresti's SPAR allegations. (12(N)(3)(b) at 2.)

The parties agree that Lopresti was responsible for Carlisle's
suspension, (12(M)(3) Ex. A at 112-19; 12(M)(3) Ex. B at 10-12), but
they disagree as to who was responsible for her transfer, (compare (12
(M)(8) at 14 with 12(N)(3)(a) at 4, and 12(N)(3)(b) at 4-5 with 12(M)
at 8). Carlisle asserts that it was Walsh and Lopresti, but they both
deny making the decision. (See 12(N)(3)(b) at 5; 12(M) at 8.) It is
clear that Lopresti first recommended the transfer in his July 3, 1996
memorandum to Walsh. (See 12(N)(3)(b) Ex. E.) Lopresti testified in his
deposition, however, that someone above him in the chain of command (whom
he cannot recall, but possibly Walsh) asked him to write a memorandum
after reviewing Carlisle's current performance  and disciplinary record.
(12(M)(3) Ex. B at 17-25.) Walsh's deposition testimony indicates that
Carick made the decision after receiving Lopresti's recommendation, which
Walsh approved. (12(M)(3) Ex. C at 18-20; 12(N)(3)(b) at 6; 12(M)(3)
Ex. B at 18.)

On April 10, 1997, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter to Carlisle. (12(M)(3) at 2.) On December 29, 1997, Carlisle filed this action, which Walsh and Lopresti ...

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