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McDonough v. City of Chicago

September 23, 2008

PATRICK MCDONOUGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Court

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the Court on the motion of Defendants City of Chicago, Richard Rice, Alexander Vroustouris, Brian Murphy, Thomas Talley, Maureen Egan and the Human Resources Board of the City of Chicago to vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) and 60(b)(5). For the reasons stated below, the motion to vacate is denied.

BACKGROUND

In Count IV of his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Patrick McDonough alleges that Defendants have violated the Shakman Consent Decree. Specifically, McDonough alleges that Defendants have violated the Shakman Decree by discriminating against him in his employment with the City based on his political affiliation, activities and speech against politically-favored members of the Water Department. McDonough seeks the issuance of a rule to show cause why Defendants should not be held in contempt of court, an injunction and an order requiring McDonough to be reinstated to his former position.

The Shakman litigation which challenges the City's patronage practices in employment resulted in a 1972 Consent Decree and a 1983 Consent Decree. The 1972 Consent Decree applies to the City's treatment of its current employees. It prohibits the City from "conditioning, basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting any term or aspect of governmental employment, with respect to one who is at the time already a governmental employee, upon or because of any political reason or factor." 1972 Consent Decree at ¶ E(1) (emphasis added). The 1983 Consent Decree pertains to the City's practices with respect to new hires and prohibits the City from "conditioning, basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting the hiring of any person as a Governmental Employee . . . upon or because of any political reason or factor." 1983 Consent Decree at E(1) (emphasis added). The 1983 Consent Decree was also designed to carry out the 1972 Consent Judgment. Id. at ¶ 2.

Defendants now move to vacate the 1983 Shakman Consent Decree. Defendants claim that Count IV of McDonough's Amended Complaint alleges violations of both the 1972 Shakman Consent Decree, which covers existing employees, as well as the 1983 Consent Decree, which covers new hires. Defendants argue that the 1983 Consent Decree should be vacated because the original Shakman plaintiffs, who were candidates and registered voters, lacked standing to challenge the City's hiring practices.

DISCUSSION

Defendants bring their motion to vacate pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4) and 60(b)(5). Under Rule 60(b)(4), the court may relieve a party from a final judgment if the judgment is void. A judgment is void if the court entering the order lacked jurisdiction, or if it had no authority to enter the order, or if it acted against due process of law. United States v. Indoor Cultivation Equip. From High Tech Indoor Garden Supply, 55 F.3d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1995). Rule 60(b)(5) provides that the court may vacate a judgment if "a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application."

In O'Sullivan v. City of Chicago, 396 F.3d 843 (7th Cir. 2005), the Seventh Circuit instructed that in deciding a Rule 60(b) motion seeking to vacate the 1983 Shakman Decree, the focus should be on two important factors. First, the court must take a flexible approach that specifically considers principles of federalism. Id. at 868. Second, the court must consider the current law on standing, particularly as it relates to voter standing to challenge municipal hiring practices. Id.

We deny Defendants' motion for two reasons. First, the present enforcement action is brought under the 1972 Consent Decree, not the 1983 Consent Decree and, therefore, we need not address Defendants' motion to vacate the 1983 Consent Decree. Second, even if we were to address the validity of the 1983 Consent Decree, Defendants' motion based on an alleged lack of standing ignores the recent addition of class plaintiffs, who as of January 11, 2006, include individual City employees and job applicants, and thus satisfies standing requirements.

I. The 1983 Consent Decree Is Not the Subject of the Present Lawsuit

The 1983 Consent Decree is not at issue in this case and, therefore, the present lawsuit is not the proper forum for the Defendants' motion. The 1983 Decree covers applicants for employment with the City. See 1983 Decree, ¶ E(l) (prohibiting discrimination "in the hiring of any person"). The 1972 Decree covers current City employees. See 1972 Decree, ¶ E(1) (prohibiting discrimination against "one who is at the time already a governmental employee"). McDonough's claims are not based on discrimination in connection with being hired by the City. His injuries allegedly were caused while he was already a governmental employee. As such, McDonough's claims are governed by the 1972 Decree, not the 1983 Decree.

The City brought a similar motion to vacate in another enforcement action brought by a current City employee in Tucker v. City of Chicago, Case No. 06-C-4786 (N.D. Ill.). In Tucker, the plaintiff, a City employee, alleged political discrimination. The City filed a motion to vacate the 1983 Decree. On February 9, 2007, Judge Guzman denied the City's motion as moot, reasoning that because the plaintiff was a current City ...


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