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George v. Walker

July 25, 2007


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


I. Introduction

Randy George filed this action on September 19, 2005, claiming defendants violated his First Amendment rights when they fired and subsequently refused to rehire him because of his political affiliation. He named Julie Curry, Roger Walker, Shelton Frey, Becky Williams, and Richard Bard as defendants individually, "for the limited purpose of implementing equitable relief." He named these defendants in their official capacities as well. The remaining defendants have now moved for summary judgment (Doc. 30), arguing that George cannot establish a prima facie case of retaliation. In George's response to defendants' motion, he admits he has insufficient evidence to support his claim he was fired for political reasons, but argues sufficient direct circumstantial evidence exists to show that he was not rehired because of his political affiliation (Doc. 40). Defendants have replied to George's response (Doc. 41).

II. Background

George began his employment with Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) as an Administrative Assistant I at the Tamms Correctional Center. On January 10, 2003, George was promoted to Business Administrator. He was to start on January 16, 2003, but never actually did because the State instituted a hiring freeze on January 14, 2003.

On December 12, 2003, IDOC posted an announcement that Tamms would be filling the position of Business Administrator. George expressed his interest in the position, but did not receive the promotion -- it went unfilled. On June 30, 2004, IDOC laid George off. After he was laid off, George learned that IDOC intended to fill the position. IDOC posted an announcement of the opening in August 2004, and filled the position on October 12, 2004.

III. Analysis

A. Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). In determining the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

If the moving party meets its burden, the nonmoving party has the burden "to go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial." Borello v. Allison, 446 F.3d 742, 748 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Insolia v. Phillip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 2000).

B. First Amendment Retaliation

To state a claim for First Amendment retaliation, a plaintiff "must present evidence that:

(1) his speech was constitutionally protected, (2) he has suffered a deprivation likely to deter free speech, and (3) his speech was at least a motivating factor in the employer's action." Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006).

Defendants do not argue that George's political affiliation "is an appropriate requirement for the position involved," Nelms v. Modisett, 153 F.3d 815, 818 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Rutan v. Republican Party of Ill., 497 U.S. 62, 64 (1990)), and they cannot argue that party affiliation is not speech protected by the First Amendment. Hall v. Babb, 389 F.3d 758, 762 (7th Cir. 2004). Defendants also do not dispute that the failure to ...

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