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Hutchinson v. Blagojevich

June 1, 2006

JEFFREY HUTCHINSON PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH AND ROGER WALKER, JR. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Jeffrey Hutchinson ("Hutchinson"), a former assistant warden fired from his position, filed a complaint against defendants Governor Rod Blagojevich ("Blagojevich") and Roger Walker, Jr. ("Walker"), the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), in April 2004. In his complaint, Hutchinson alleged that his termination was an unconstitutional exercise of political patronage and a violation of his right to free speech. The defendants filed for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 21) based on a recent Seventh Circuit decision in Riley v. Blagojevich, 425 F.3d 357 (7th Cir. 2005), which presented nearly identical issues. Contending that he needed further discovery to respond to the defendants' summary judgment motion, Hutchinson filed a motion to compel (Dkt. No. 47). On April 12, 2006, this court adopted Magistrate Judge Nolan's Report and Recommendation order from March 7, 2006 and denied Hutchinson's motion to compel. This court now returns to the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 21). For the reasons stated below, this court grants the defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Hutchinson was promoted to assistant warden of the Vienna Correctional Center ("VCC") in January 2003 during a Republican administration and then fired in January 2003, a year after Governor Blagojevich assumed office. Hutchinson claims that he was unconstitutionally fired based on his political affiliation in violation of the First Amendment. Although elected officials may hire individuals for policymaking positions based on political affiliation, Hutchinson alleges that the position of assistant warden at the VCC did not involve policymaking responsibilities. See Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 517-18 (1980); Kiddy-Brown v. Blagojevich, 408 F.3d 346, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). Hutchinson also asserts that he spoke out on "matter[s] of public concern," such as issues related to "employment vacancies within IDOC," "the unwillingness of Defendants Blagojevich and Walker to staff IDOC facilities at appropriate levels, the "safety of IDOC facilities," and the "reorganization of the IDOC," and that this speech also led to his termination. (Cmpl. ¶¶ 47-53.)

B. Official Job Description for Assistant Warden

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services ("CMS") makes and updates the official job descriptions for positions in the IDOC. The June 2003-updated description for assistant warden of the VCC is as follows:

Subject to administrative approval of the Warden, Sr. Public Service Adm., serves as Assistant Warden of Operations; formulates, organizes, and directs the overall Operations Program for the Vienna Correctional Center; supervises staff; maintains and enforces disciplinary, safety, and security and custodial measures; administratively responsible and accountable for execution of policies and procedures in management of the institution while serving as Deputy Warden.

1. As Assistant Warden, assists in development, establishment and implementation of rules, regulations, and directives, policies and procedures of the institution to ensure proper operation of the daily functions; administratively responsible and accountable for execution of policies and procedures in management of the institution while serving as Deputy Warden.

2. Plans, organizes and directs the overall Operations function and their managers, including security, physical plant operations, dietary services, inmate discipline, and other miscellaneous logistical support services; coordinate[s] all inmate programs related to these functions; participates in the budget process by gathering data from department heads regarding current and anticipated programs and projects; makes recommendations to management outlin[ing] budgetary needs.

3. Supervises staff; assigns work; approves time off; provides guidance and training; gives oral reprimands and effectively recommends grievance resolutions; completes and signs performance evaluations; establishes annual goals and objectives; counsels employees on problems with productivity and quality of work; determines staffing needs to achieve program goals and objectives; reviews activity reports.

4. Conducts routine and unscheduled safety, health, sanitation and security inspection tours throughout the institution; makes recommendations to the Warden as to any changes, problems or improvements.

5. Serves as Chairman of the Adjustment Committee, including making decision on disciplinary problems involving infractions of institutional rules by inmates.

6. Performs other duties as required or assigned which are reasonably within the scope of the ...


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