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Miyler v. Village of East Galesburg

August 31, 2006

CODY MIYLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF EAST GALESBURG DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Village of East Galesburg's ("the Village") Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #20]; Plaintiff Cody Miyler's ("Miyler") Response [Doc. #22]; and the Village's Reply [Doc. #23]. For the reasons that follow, the Village's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed. On January 3, 2001, Miyler was appointed Chief of Police by the Village President of East Galesburg, Illinois.*fn1 On July 2, 2003, pursuant to § 1-5-12(J) of the Village Code of East Galesburg, Illinois, the Village's Board of Trustees ("the Board") voted to remove Miyler from his position as chief of police with a more than two-thirds vote. See [Doc. #20-3]. He was then removed from office on July 23, 2003. His removal was based on various allegations of misconduct and he was not provided with a hearing on the charges.*fn2

As a result, on July 6, 2004, Miyler filed a one-count complaint against the Village for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was deprived of a property interest in continued employment as the Village's Chief of Police when he was summarily removed from office without due process of law. In turn, the Village has now filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that Miyler was an "at-will" employee and, therefore, had no constitutionally protected property interest in his continued employment as chief of police.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court as to portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the movant has met its burden, to survive summary judgment the "non-movant must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which [s]he bears the burden of proof at trial." Warsco v. Preferred Tech. Group, 258 F.3d 557, 563 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-24. "The non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence." Chemsource, Inc. v. Hub Group, Inc., 106 F.3d 1358, 1361 (7th Cir. 1997).

This Court must nonetheless "view the record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). In doing so, this Court is not "required to draw every conceivable inference from the record -- only those inferences that are reasonable." Bank Leumi Le-Isreal, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2nd 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). Therefore, if the record before the court "could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," then no genuine issue of material fact exists and, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

III. ANALYSIS

The Village argues that "[t]he legal issue before the Court is whether the [Board] properly removed Plaintiff by a two-thirds vote due to Plaintiff's illegal conduct while acting as police chief." [Doc. #23, pg. 1]. Fortunately, for the Village, this is not the legal issue; if it were, Plaintiff would likely prevail. Instead, the legal issue is whether Miyler has a constitutionally protected property interest in his continued employment under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states and local governing bodies from depriving a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. Thus, in examining Miyler's procedural due process claim, the Court must first determine "the nature of the interest at stake . . . to see if the interest is within the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property." Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 571 (1972) (emphasis in original).

It is well settled to have a property interest in continued employment "a person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Id. at 577. Thus, property interests "are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state [or local] law --- rules or understandings that secure certain benefits and that support claims of entitlement to those benefits." Id. As such, "[p]roperty interests in employment may be created by express or implied contracts, municipal ordinances or state laws . . . ." Farmer v. Lane, 864 F.2d 473, 478 (7th Cir. 1988).

A. Section 3.1-35-10 of the Illinois Municipal Code does not create a constitutionally protected property ...


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