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WILLIAMS v. ZAPPA

December 8, 2005.

JOHN WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
LEO ZAPPA, Jr. and MICHAEL J. TORCHIA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MIHM, District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#15] is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff, John Williams ("Williams"), was a Supervisor in the Adult Probation Department of Sangamon County. Williams began his employment in 1985 as an Adult Probation Officer and was promoted in 1998 to the position of Adult Probation Supervisor. In his position as supervisor, Williams was directly responsible for supervising probation officers, managing probationers, and conducting pre-sentencing investigations. Williams was also responsible for managing the probation officers assigned to the specialized sex offender program. Williams held this supervisor position until he was terminated on July 1, 2002.

  At all relevant times, Defendant Leo Zappa ("Zappa") was employed by Sangamon County as the Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Illinois. As Chief Judge, Zappa had general administrative and supervisory authority over the Director of the Adult Probation Department and his subordinates. Defendant Michael J. Torchia ("Torchia") was employed by Sangamon County as Director of Sangamon County's Adult Probation Department and supervised all of the employees in the Adult Probation Department.

  Williams alleges that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights when they retaliated against him for: (1) supporting the unionization of line employees, (2) writing letters to Judge John Mehlick and Judge Steven Nardulli criticizing recent sentences handed down by them to individual sex offenders, (3) writing an electronic mail message in which Williams attempted to persuade Torchia to change an earlier decision regarding the future operation of the sex offenders unit of the probation department, and (4) including comments and opinions about department management in a Public Service Employment proposal. Williams argues that the claimed retaliation took the form of a written reprimand, a three-day suspension, and termination.

  As a result of Defendants' actions, Williams filed a Complaint in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights because Williams was speaking out on issues of public concern. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that Williams' speech was not a matter of public concern, that Williams is not entitled to protection for his speech, and that even if Williams' speech was protected, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Williams filed a response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

  In Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants deny that they retaliated against Williams because he supported the unionization of line personnel. In support of this, Defendants point to the fact that Williams admits that he cannot provide any evidence that Defendant Zappa knew that Williams supported unionization and that Williams admitted that Defendant Torchia also supported unionization. Accordingly, Defendants argue that Williams cannot claim that Defendants retaliated against him based on his support of unionization. In his Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Williams does not address this issue. Therefore, he has conceded the issue and the Court will address the three remaining claims.

  STANDARD OF REVIEW

  A motion for summary judgment will be granted where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 2553. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

  If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 106 S.Ct. at 2553. This Court must then determine whether there is a need for trial — whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may be reasonably resolved in favor of either party. Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511; Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995).

  DISCUSSION

  Defendants claim that they are entitled to summary judgment because Williams' speech was not protected speech. Additionally, Defendants argue that even if the Court finds that Williams engaged in protected ...


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