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Dargis v. Sheahan

May 16, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 02 C 6872-Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.


Before BAUER, MANION, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Beginning in 1982, Liutauras Dargis was employed as a correctional officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Office. In February 2000, Dargis suffered a stroke while on duty. When Dargis attempted to return to work in July 2001, the Sheriff's Office declined to reinstate him due to physical restrictions imposed by Dargis's physician, placing him instead on leave without pay. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Dargis filed suit in federal court against the Cook County Sheriff's Office, Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, Assistant Executive Director Marcus Lyles, Executive Director Ernesto Velasco, and Cook County.*fn1 Dargis alleged, in pertinent part, that the Sheriff's Office violated his due process rights by not providing him with a hearing prior to placing him on leave, and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by failing to reinstate him following his stroke. The Sheriff's Office moved for summary judgment on all claims. The district court denied the motion on the issue of due process, entering judgment instead for Dargis on those claims, and directing the Sheriff's Office to hold a hearing on Dargis's employment status within thirty days. The motion was granted as to Dargis's ADA claims, and Dargis's remaining claims, all based in state law, were dismissed due to the district court's decision not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. Dargis now appeals, arguing that the district court erred by not proceeding to trial on the damages he sustained as a result of the due process violation, and by entering summary judgment against him on his ADA claims. Additionally, Dargis argues that the district court erred by not exercising supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims and by denying a post-judgment motion to alter or amend the judgment. We affirm the district court.


Dargis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois in 1981, and became a correctional officer with the Sheriff's Office on May 1, 1982. By all accounts, Dargis gave exemplary service and at the time of the events giving rise to this suit, he had risen to rank of Sergeant having supervisory authority over seventy-five other officers. On February 9, 2000, Dargis suffered a stroke while on duty. This stroke resulted in Dargis's hospitalization, and he was placed on short-term disability leave by the Sheriff's Office. Dargis remained on disability leave for over a year.

On June 28, 2001, Dargis's physician, Dr. Margaret Wade, provided him with a letter setting forth numerous medical conditions from which he suffered. In addition to listing his status as post-Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke), Dr. Wade indicated that Dargis suffered from Type 1 Diabetes, Coronary Artery Disease, Chronic Myofacial Pain Syndrome, Bilateral Retinopathy, Vitreous Hemorrhages, Peripheral Vascular Disease, and a Neuropathic Bladder. Dr. Wade stated her belief that Dargis could return to work as of July 2, 2001, subject to the following limitations: (1) no physical contact,*fn2 (2) no physical activity other than sitting in a chair with brief episodes of standing and walking, (3) no lifting, kneeling, stooping, or running, and (4) a work environment with adequate heat and air conditioning. Before the date of his return, Dargis claims to have been told by an Assistant Executive Director of the Sheriff's Office, John Maul, that he would be placed in a position requiring no contact with inmates upon his return.*fn3 Upon returning to work on July 2, 2001, Dargis met with his supervisor, Assistant Executive Director Marcus Lyles, and presented him with the letter from Dr. Wade. Dargis also clarified for Lyles that not having any inmate contact was necessary because a blow to his head might result in blindness or other serious medical problems. Believing that Dargis could no longer perform the essential functions of a correctional officer, Lyles made the decision not to return him to work.

The parties dispute whether positions exist within the Sheriff's Office that do not require inmate contact. In an affidavit submitted in support of the Sheriff's Office's summary judgment motion, Lyles stated that correctional officers are primarily responsible for maintaining vigil, standing guard, counting inmates, breaking up fights among inmates, inspecting for contraband, escorting inmates outside their cells, searching inmates and visitors, and searching for escaped inmates. Lyles conceded that there are some positions requiring less inmate contact than others, but asserted that all officers, regardless of the position to which they were assigned, must be able to respond to emergencies such as riots or escapes, and must be able to rotate through various positions as needed. This requirement, often occurring due to unforeseeable events, meant that the Sheriff's Office was unable to guarantee that any assignment would shield an officer from all inmate contact.

Lyles's description of the range of duties for which a correctional officer is responsible is confirmed by the Correctional Officer Job Description provided by Cook County's Position Classification Agency and submitted at the summary judgment stage by Dargis. The Job Description sets forth a correctional officer's duties as follows:

Observes and supervises the behavior of inmates confined to Cook County's Correctional Institutions. Enforces rules and regulations established for the maintenance of order, discipline and safety. Makes rounds of assigned area to insure that all security procedures are adhered to and all inmates under surveillance are accounted for. Communicates with inmates to ascertain attitudes, problems and rehabilitation. Performs a variety of other related duties to assist with jail operations.

The Job Description also lists certain desirable qualifications a correctional officer should exhibit, including "[c]onsiderable good judgment and initiative . . . to assure prompt and thorough action during routine and emergency situations," and the "[a]bility to supervise and control inmate crews." The Job Description as filed had attached seventeen descriptions of specific positions and duties.

In his affidavit submitted in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, Dargis stated that he had performed all seventeen positions attached to the County's Job Description, and conceded that the majority of them involve contact with inmates. Dargis asserted, however, that there were a number of assignments not requiring any inmate contact, including the prison's tower, the master control security center, various points of entrance to and egress from the prison, the records department, the training academy, the computer room, and the firing range. Dargis claims that he repeatedly requested of Lyles to be placed in one of these positions, believing that such placement would accommodate the limitations imposed by Dr. Wade,*fn4 but that his requests were ignored. Additionally, Dargis requested a hearing on Lyles's decision, but this request was denied. Dargis was instead placed on what the parties refer to as "zero pay status." Specifically, he was not terminated, which would have necessitated the filing of a charge with the Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board and a subsequent hearing. See 55 ILCS 5/3-7012. Instead, Dargis remained officially in the employ of the Sheriff's Office, however, he received no pay and had no recourse to a hearing.

On November 29, 2001, Dargis filed charges of discrimination with both the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and he received a right to sue letter on June 28, 2002. Dargis initiated this action in the district court on September 26, 2002. On April 4, 2003, he filed an Amended Complaint stating claims for violation of the ADA, violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Due Process Clause of the Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, constitutional violations resulting from an alleged constructive discharge pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, conspiracy to violate the ADA and Dargis's civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and eight state law claims arising from the Illinois Constitution, statutes, and common law. The Sheriff's Office moved for summary judgment on all of Dargis's claims on March 29, 2004. On March 25, 2005, the district court entered an order concluding that the Sheriff's Office had violated Dargis's due process rights as protected by federal and state law. Specifically, the district court found that the "[Sheriff's Office's] placement of [Dargis] on 'zero pay status' and refusal to return him to active duty constitutes a deprivation of a protected property interest, despite the fact that [Dargis] technically remains an employee of the Department of Corrections." The district court concluded that Dargis was entitled to a hearing before imposition of this deprivation, and the Sheriff's Office was directed to conduct a hearing within thirty days of the judgment pursuant to 55 ILCS 5/3-7012. Summary judgment was entered in favor of the Sheriff's Office on Dargis's remaining federal claims, and the remaining state claims were dismissed without prejudice when the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. Dargis filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, asserting that the district court had overlooked evidence relevant to his ADA claims. Dargis also claimed that the district court was required to proceed to trial to determine the damages he suffered as a result of the due process violation. This motion was denied on April 27, 2005.

Dargis raises four issues in his appeal. First, Dargis argues that there existed genuine issues of material fact which should have prevented the district court from entering summary judgment against him on his ADA claims. Second, although judgment was entered in his favor on his due process claims, Dargis argues that the district court erred by directing the Sheriff's Office to hold a hearing instead of proceeding to trial on his claim for damages, attorney's fees and other appropriate relief. Third, Dargis asserts that the district court abused its discretion in dismissing his state law claims. Finally, Dargis claims that the district ...

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