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Christine A. Opp v. Office of the State's Attorney of Cook County

December 29, 2010

CHRISTINE A. OPP, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
OFFICE OF THE STATE'S ATTORNEY OF COOK COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. EDWARD J. BARRETT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COOK COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY OFFICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. LEONARD CAHNMANN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RICHARD A. DEVINE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS STATE'S ATTORNEY OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:08-cv-06120-Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge. No. 1:08-cv-06124-Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge. No. 1:08-cv-06207-Ruben Castillo, Judge.

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

ARGUED SEPTEMBER 21, 2010-DECIDED DECEMBER 29, 2010

Before BAUER, SYKES and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

The appellants, former Assistant State's Attorneys to the Cook County State's Attorney, each brought an action claiming unlawful employment termination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 ("ADEA"). The district court granted the defendant-appellees' motions to dismiss ruling that the plaintiff-appellants were excluded from the ADEA's coverage because they held policymaking positions as a matter of law. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Christine Opp

Appellant Opp began working for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as an Assistant State's Attorney in January 1997. Opp's final position during this employment was as the supervisor of the Preliminary Hearings Courtroom and as the "first chair" for the Sixth District overflow felony courtroom. Opp had consistently received "qualified" or "highly qualified" performance evaluation ratings.

In response to budget reductions in December 2006, Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine sent out a memorandum informing Assistant State's Attorneys that if personnel cuts became necessary, the cuts would be based on performance evaluations. On February 16, 2007, Opp was informed that her employment was being terminated. The reason given was for "the future needs of the office."

Opp's complaint stated that she was fifty-seven years old at the time of her termination and the oldest employee assigned to the Sixth District. She was also the only employee from that District whose employment was terminated during February 2007. Opp's complaint stated that she was replaced by an individual substantially younger. Opp claimed that she was terminated because of her age.

B. Edward Barrett

Appellant Barrett was hired as an Assistant State's Attorney in July 1990. Barrett's final position with the State's Attorney's Office was in the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau in the Fourth District. Barrett regularly received "adequate and qualified" evaluations of his job performance.

On February 16, 2007, Barrett was informed that his employment was being terminated. Like Opp, Barrett was told that his termination was due to budget reductions and for "the future needs of the office." Barrett claimed that he was replaced by a new attorney who was younger and that the State's Attorney hired up to seventy new attorneys who were all younger than him, just months after his termination. Barrett was forty-four years old at the time of his termination and likewise contended that his discharge was due to age discrimination.

C. Leonard Cahnmann

Appellant Cahnmann began working for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office as an Assistant State's Attorney in September 1998. On March 2, 2007, Cahnmann was terminated for reasons he was told were "due to budgetary constraints." Cahnmann alleged that in reality he was terminated because of his advanced age and that the "budgetary constraints" he was informed of were only ...


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