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Doyle v. Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit

August 16, 2007

PHILLIP DOYLE PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHIEF JUDGE OF THE TENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND PEORIA COUNTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit [#46] and a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Peoria County [#45]. For the reasons set forth below, both Motions are GRANTED.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims asserted in the Complaint present federal questions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the United States Constitution.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Phillip Doyle ("Doyle") was employed by the Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit ("Chief Judge") as a Youth Supervisor-Counselor ("YSC") at the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center from August 2003 through January 2005. By Illinois statute, Doyle's position was that of a probation officer subject to the Illinois Probation and Probation Officers Act, 730 ILCS 100 et seq. As a probation officer, Doyle had a duty of confidentiality imposed by § 12 of the Act (730 ILCS 110/12), as well as Policy 3.1 of the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center as set out in the Detention Center's Policy & Procedure Manual. Doyle's employment as a YSC was ultimately terminated on January 28, 2005, for revealing confidential information about detainees at the Juvenile Detention Center.

In late June 2004, Doyle wrote a report to Mark Bronke ("Bronke"), the Superintendent at the Juvenile Detention Center, claiming that he had witnessed another employee assault a juvenile detainee named Ariel Y. The assault had allegedly occurred in March 2004. Bronke conducted an investigation and concluded that Doyle had fabricated the allegations against his co-worker. Doyle aggressively disputes that he fabricated any of the allegations, and states that several other co-workers and detainees corroborate his version of what occurred. Doyle was disciplined (in the form of a suspension) for having fabricated the report.

On October 13, 2004, Doyle wrote a letter to an attorney named Robin Potter, seeking help regarding his suspension. In that letter, Doyle revealed the last name of Darryl M., a juvenile detainee. On October 13 and 21, 2004, Doyle wrote letters regarding the alleged incident of assault and his discipline to Pam Zexman, a CBS news reporter. In his correspondence with Zexman, Doyle revealed the last name of Ariel Y.

On December 9, 2004, Doyle filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board regarding the discipline he had received earlier in 2004. Doyle gave the Labor Board an unredacted copy of the "daily population report" for May 19, 2004, which contained confidential information regarding forty-three juvenile detainees. The report contained the full names of detainees at the Juvenile Detention Center, the date they were admitted, the offense with which they are charged, the status of any court action, and the county from which the juvenile was referred. Doyle also admits that he gave copies of the same daily population report to Potter and Zexman.

Doyle does not dispute that he violated Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center Policy 3.1 when he released information to Potter, Zexman, and the Illinois Labor Relations Board, and Doyle did not obtain permission from his supervisor to reveal the confidential information to any source. Policy 3.1 provides, "All employees of the Center, as well as consultants, contract personnel, and volunteers must maintain the confidentiality of any information pertaining to any specific juvenile." Chief Judge MSJ, Ex. E, at 7.

Doyle was discharged on January 28, 2005, for releasing confidential information regarding juveniles. Specifically, a written disciplinary decision from Bronke states that Doyle violated Detention Center Policy 3.1 when he (1) disclosed confidential information regarding Aerial Y. to Pam Zexman; (2) disclosed confidential information regarding Daryl M. to Robin Potter; (3) disclosed confidential information regarding Ariel Y. and Daryl M. to the Illinois Labor Relations Board; and (4) disclosed the daily population report, bearing confidential information regarding 43 juvenile detainees, to the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Chief Judge MSJ, Ex. E, at 1. Bronke concluded that these infractions, in light of Doyle's disciplinary history, rendered termination the proper disciplinary action. Id. at 2.

Before he was discharged, Doyle was issued a Notice of Adverse Action, informing him of the violations with which he was charged and the evidence his employer had concerning those violations. Doyle was given an opportunity to present his side of the story in both written and oral format. He admitted the violations and was then discharged.

Doyle'e employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement, which contained grievance procedures that could be used to challenge termination or other discipline. Doyle's grievance over his discharge was denied at Step 3 by Steven Kossman, Bronke's supervisor. Doyle did not attend the March 24, 2005, hearing on the Step 3 grievance, and declined to seek arbitration or mediation pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement after receiving Kossman's Step 3 decision.

Doyle filed this action on May 2, 2005. The Amendment Complaint, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, alleges that the Defendants violated Doyle's First Amendment rights because he was punished for speaking out on a matter of public concern. Doyle further alleges his discharge violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and amounted to retaliatory discharge under Illinois law

Earlier in this lawsuit, in considering a Motion to Dismiss, the Court ruled that the state tort count for retaliatory discharge (Count II) against the Chief Judge, who is essentially the State when sued in his official capacity, was barred by sovereign immunity. The Court also found that Doyle's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for monetary damages against the Chief Judge in his official capacity were barred by sovereign immunity. The Chief Judge remains in this case, therefore, only as to the claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and only to the extent Doyle seeks relief not barred by the Eleventh Amendment, i.e., relief other than monetary damages.

The Complaint alleges that the Chief Judge and Peoria County are Doyle's "joint employers." While Peoria County states that it is a necessary party due to its "financial responsibility for the Chief Judge's employee related costs," it makes a cursory argument that it is not Doyle's employer or joint employer. See Alexander v. Rush North Shore Medical Center, 101 F.3d 487 (7th Cir. 1997) (The question of whether a joint employer relationship exists is a fact-based inquiry that involves consideration of several factors, of which the ability to control job functions and results is the most important). However, Peoria County has not moved for summary judgment on this ground, and accordingly, the Court proceeds on the assumption that it is a joint employer, subject to liability independent of the Chief Judge.

On May 23, 2007, both the Chief Judge and Peoria County moved for Summary Judgment, arguing that they were entitled for judgment as a matter of law on all counts. Both motions are fully briefed, and this Order follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that 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, 322 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of disputed material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. 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 (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. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (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, 477 U.S. at 324. In other words, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Nevertheless, this Court must "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). Summary judgment will be ...


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