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Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County

March 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge


Petitioner Michael E. Sullivan moves this court to hold the City of Chicago and Department of Streets and Sanitation Assistant General Superintendent Patrick Cusack and General Foreman of Linemen James Kirby in civil contempt for violating court orders arising from the Shakman case. Mr. Sullivan seeks relief in the form of economic and disciplinary sanctions, injunctions, and damages. On September 22, 2008, this Court held a hearing on the contempt motion. After taking all of the evidence presented at this hearing into consideration, this court denies Mr. Sullivan's motion.


The evidence presented at the hearing revealed the following facts. Before June 7, 2007, Sullivan, an employee of the City of Chicago, was a class member in the Shakman proceedings. He was included as a named plaintiff in Shakman's Second Amended Complaint, which was filed in this Court on January 11, 2006. In 2007, as a result of the Accord, Sullivan received a payment of $25,000 from the pool set aside to pay all Shakman claims under the Accord. Sullivan's supervisor, John Kirby, was aware of Sullivan's participation in the Shakman case and settlement.

On June 7, 2007, Sullivan worked as part of a maintenance crew for the Bureau of Electricity in the Department of Streets and Sanitation (the "Bureau"). These crews are referred to as "Small Gangs" within the Bureau. The Small Gangs maintain light posts and traffic signals in the City of Chicago. There are nine Small Gangs, each typically composed of five employees: one foreman, two linemen, one laborer, and one motor truck driver. Sullivan worked as a laborer.

The Bureau has two different rubrics under which an employee could receive overtime pay for his work. The first, called "extended day," occurs when a laborer works beyond the end of his typical shift in order to finish a project that began during the shift. Shifts end at either 3:30 p.m., for laborers who begin at 7:00 a.m., or at 4:30 p.m., for those laborers like Sullivan who begin at 8:00 a.m. When working an extended day, a crew typically remains at the location until the job is finished, returning to the Bureau's compound ("the Yard") to unload the work truck before leaving for the day. Crews who work an extended day receive overtime pay for the time they work beyond their regularly scheduled work day.

Under the second rubric, referred to here as "after-hours" overtime, a laborer is called in to work after normal business hours or on the weekend. To ensure fairness in offering these overtime opportunities, laborers are placed on a rotating "call list." In a typical situation, the supervisor on call receives notice from the Bureau's dispatch that a laborer is needed. The supervisor will then telephone the first person on the list with the offer to work overtime hours. If that laborer is unavailable, the official will contact the second name and so on, calling down the list until someone accepts the job.

On June 7, 2007, Sullivan was at the top of the call list. In the late afternoon of that day, his crew returned to the Yard to unload the truck and "wash up." Meanwhile, Sullivan's superiors were positioning themselves to deal with the afternoon's inclement weather; temperatures had soared into the 90s and a windstorm had blown in. Anticipating crews might be needed that evening to handle emergencies likely to arise, Mr. Cusack called Mr. Kirby early that afternoon and ordered him to create two crews to stay and be prepared to handle anything that might develop that evening. Because it was at the end of the work day, some laborers had already gone home, leaving partial crews that were missing certain team members.

Both of the emergency crews needed laborers. It was up to Mr. Kirby to complete these makeshift crews. Sullivan and two other laborers, George Karabatsos and Calvin Spurlock, were willing to work overtime that day and were on the premises. Sullivan, however, was not selected by Mr. Kirby. In court, Mr. Kirby testified that he selected Mr. Karabatsos and Mr. Spurlock to work on the emergency crews because they were closest nearby when he made his decision, and that Sullivan's involvement in the Shakman litigation played no part in the decision. Neither Mr. Karabatsos nor Mr. Spurlock had reported Shakman violations, nor were they parties to the litigation. The emergency crews earned nearly eight hours of overtime pay that evening.

In his current motion for contempt, Mr. Sullivan claims that respondents violated the Accord by wrongfully denying him the opportunity to work for overtime pay on June 7, 2007.

Sullivan maintains that this decision was politically motivated, and that he was denied overtime in retaliation for reporting Shakman patronage abuses to various authorities.


A court's "civil contempt power rests in its inherent limited authority to enforce compliance with court orders and ensure judicial proceedings are conducted in an orderly manner." United States v. Dowell, 257 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2001). To be held in civil contempt, a person must have violated an order or decree that sets forth in specific detail an unequivocal command. Id. at 699.

It is not necessary to a finding of contempt that a violation was "willful." Rather, it is sufficient that a party "has not been reasonably diligent and energetic in attempting to accomplish what was ordered." Goluba v. School Dist. of Ripon, 45 F.3d 1035, 1037 (7th Cir. 1995). Finally, the party asserting a violation of a judicial order has the burden of ...

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