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Sobotka v. Cunningham

July 13, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff Linda Sobotka ("Sobotka") has filed a one-count complaint against A.C. Cunningham, Public Defender of Cook County, in his official capacity, and Cook County, Illinois, alleging that defendants discriminated against her on the basis of gender in violation of the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206 et seq. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.


In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court draws "all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and [views] the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008). The following facts are taken from Sobotka's complaint and from the parties' statements of facts as to which there is no material dispute.

Linda Sobotka

Linda Sobotka is a female employee of the Public Defender's Office. She holds an associates degree, a bachelors degree in sociology, and a business skills certificate. Since May 1990, she has been employed as a mitigation specialist and sentencing advocate under the job title of Administrative Assistant III with the office of the Public Defender of Cook County (the "Public Defender's Office" or the "Office"). The position of Administrative Assistant III is a salary grade 16, and Sobotka's current salary is approximately $54,737.00 per year.

In January 1996, the Public Defender disbanded the Office's Sentencing Advocacy unit. As a result, Sobotka was reassigned to the Multiple Defendant Division (the "MDD").*fn1 Among other responsibilities, mitigation specialists and sentencing advocates obtain background information and records from and about criminal defendants that can be used by the defendants' attorneys to assist in representation of the individuals and may impact the outcome of the cases on the merits and in sentencing. From 2005 through 2009, approximately 90 percent of Sobotka's work involved practice and approximately 10 percent involved policy issues. Her position is not defined by the Public Defender's Office as supervisory.*fn2

From 2001 through 2007, in addition to her duties with the MDD, Sobotka attended lunch group meetings in which outside mitigation practitioners working for the Public Defender's Office discussed various issues. Sobotka would take messages back to the capital case coordinator and to the Public Defender who, once informed about the meetings, advocated for Sobotka's continued attendance. Additionally, Sobotka was authorized to speak on behalf of the Public Defender's Office about the "One Team One Voice" concept and the Office's commitment to securing compensation for outside mitigation specialists. One Team One Voice was a two-day training held in July 2006 sponsored by the Office for investigators, attorneys, and mitigation specialists. Sobotka served on the planning committee for the training.

In addition, Sobotka has supervised interns and participated in trainings as part of her job duties. Since 2004 Sobotka has supervised four or five interns. She is not, however, involved in setting up internship programs for the Public Defender's Office. Since 2006, Sobotka has participated in 1 to 2 new employee trainings for attorneys in which she delivered a one-hour workshop on interviewing clients, identifying necessary records, and finding records. In 2009, Sobotka participated in an office mitigation training in which she discussed social history investigation and creating a mitigation case. In 2005, she was on the planning committee for the National Alliance for Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists' ("NASAMS") annual two-day Death Penalty Mitigation Institute Conference which was co-sponsored by the Public Defender's Office.

Sobotka has also attended trainings on mitigation, investigation, and computers. She is the staff person responsible for scanning documents, creating disks, and saving scanned documents on a shared drive of the attorneys in the MDD unit.

Alvin Hill*fn3

Alvin Hill ("Hill") is a male employee of the Public Defender's Office. He holds an associates degree and a bachelors degree in sociology. He also has a masters degree in sociology and has completed all of the course work required for Ph.D.s in both sociology and criminology.

From 1990 through 1996, Hill supervised the mitigation specialists and sentencing advocates in the Public Defender's Office, including Sobotka. Hill has been employed with the Public Defender's Office as an Administrative Assistant V since December 18, 1989, when he was hired as Coordinator of the Sentencing Advocacy Team and charged with establishing a new sentencing advocacy program. The position of Administrative Assistance V is a salary grade 20, and Hill's current annual salary is $75,452.00.

When the Sentencing Advocacy unit was disbanded in 1996, Hill was assigned to the Murder Task Force (the "MTF") and no longer supervised the sentencing advocates. The MTF unit is a premiere unit within the Public Defender's Office that consists of the highest level attorneys who work strictly on murder cases, most of which are capital cases. He also periodically works on cases for felony ...

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