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Hagan v. Quinn

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

March 23, 2015

KATHLEEN A. HAGAN, JOSEPH V. PRIETO, RICHARD A. PETERSON, and GILBERTO GALICIA, Plaintiffs,
v.
PATRICK J. QUINN, JEROME STERMER, and VELISHA HADDOX, Defendants

For Kathleen Hagan, Joseph Prieto, Richard Peterson, Gilberto Galicia, Plaintiffs: John A Baker, BAKER BAKER & KRAJEWSKI LLC, Springfield, IL.

For Patrick Quinn, Jerome Stermer, Velisha Haddox, Defendants: Terence J Corrigan, LEAD ATTORNEY, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL, Springfield, IL.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This cause is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint filed by Defendants Patrick J. Quinn, Jerome Stermer, and Velisha Haddox. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' federal claim. As a matter of law, Plaintiffs' lawsuit to protect their jobs was not constitutionally protected speech. In any event, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from damages. Further, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claim.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiffs' Underlying Lawsuit

Plaintiffs Kathleen Hagan, Joseph Prieto, Richard Peterson, and Gilberto Galicia are former arbitrators of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. According to Plaintiffs, many Illinois media outlets published articles in 2011 suggesting there were problems with the Illinois workers' compensation system, and the media coverage generated significant public interest on the subject that eventually prompted action at the Illinois General Assembly. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 11--12.) In addition, various individuals and interest groups directly contacted members of the General Assembly and the Governor to voice concerns about the workers' compensation system, ultimately leading to the enactment of Public Act 97-18. (Compl. ¶ 14.)

On June 28, 2011, Governor Quinn signed Public Act 97-18 into law. The Act provided several changes to the workers' compensation system, including a provision requiring the terms of employment of all arbitrators to terminate on July 1, 2011. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 17, 23.) The Act further provided that all arbitrators shall be appointed initially by the Governor.[1](Compl. ¶ 22; see also 820 ILCS 305/14.)

At the time the Act was signed, Plaintiffs were all employed as arbitrators for the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 7--10.) On July 12, 2011, Plaintiffs, along with Peter Akemann, filed a three-count Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Governor and the Chairman and Commissioners of the Workers' Compensation Commission. (Compl. ¶ 20; see also Hagan v. Quinn, No. 11-CV-3213, 2014 WL 3052631 (C.D. Ill. July 7, 2014) (the " underlying lawsuit" or " underlying complaint" ).

Plaintiffs' underlying complaint comprised three claims. In Count I, Plaintiffs alleged that the termination of their employment as provided under Public Act 97-18 deprived them of a property interest in their jobs without due process of law. Hagan, No. 11-CV-3213, 2014 WL 3052631, at *1. Count I sought compensatory damages and an injunction " prohibiting Defendants from removing Plaintiffs from their office or from appointing any other person to that office, or from taking any other action in retaliation for the Plaintiffs's protection of their civil rights in this cause." (Underlying Complaint, p. 7.) Count II sought the same relief, alleging that Plaintiffs lost their liberty interests in their reputations and good names without due process of law due to the contents of a press release issued by Governor Quinn the day he signed Public Act 97-18 into law. Id. at pp. 7-9. In Count III, Plaintiffs asked the Court to declare Public Act 97-18 unconstitutional as to them because the Act denied them their property interest without due process of law. Id. at p. 10.

Plaintiffs' underlying lawsuit was originally assigned to this Court. This Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, reasoning that Plaintiffs had little likelihood of success, given that the legislative process was all the process to which they were due before the terms and conditions of their jobs were changed by legislation. (Underlying lawsuit, 7/29/2011 Order.) However, this Court did allow the underlying lawsuit to survive a motion to dismiss for further development of the record. (Underlying lawsuit, 1/19/12 Order.) After reassignment to United States District Judge Colin S. Bruce, Plaintiffs' underlying lawsuit was dismissed on summary judgment, Judge Bruce concluding that the legislative process was all the process due Plaintiffs. Hagan, No. 11-CV-3213, 2014 WL 3052631. By that time, Plaintiffs had conceded the dismissal of their liberty interest claim (Count II). The underlying lawsuit is now on appeal and has been consolidated with another appeal from the Southern District which reached the same conclusion as Judge Bruce. Dibble v. Quinn and Akemann v. Quinn, Appellate Cases 14-2328 and 14-2746 (7th Circuit).[2]

B. The Present Lawsuit

As provided by Public Act 97-18, Plaintiffs continued to work as incumbent arbitrators, despite the legislative termination of their terms of employment, until Governor Quinn decided against reappointing them on October 14, 2011. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 23, 24.) Plaintiffs allege that Governor Quinn made this decision in conjunction with Defendant Stermer, Governor Quinn's Chief of Staff, and Defendant Haddox, an advisor to Governor Quinn. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 25; see also Compl. ¶ ¶ 5--6.) According to Plaintiffs, " [t]he sole reason that Governor Quinn, Stermer, and Haddox [decided] to terminate the employment of the Former Arbitrators was because of the lawsuit that they brought on July 12, 2011." (Compl. ¶ 27.)

On October 11, 2013, Plaintiffs filed this two-count Complaint under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. In Count I, Plaintiffs claim Defendants violated their First Amendment rights by retaliating against them for filing the underlying lawsuit. Count II is a supplemental state law claim for violations of the whistleblower ...


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