United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
Autumn Tibbs, Plaintiff: John A Baker, BAKER BAKER &
KRAJEWSKI LLC, Springfield, IL.
Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, Judge Leslie
Graves, Barbara Mabie, Defendants: Karen L McNaught, ILLINOIS
ATTORNEY GENERAL, Springfield, IL.
Mills, United States District Judge.
Motion of the Defendants for Summary Judgment is allowed.
case is terminated.
Autumn Tibbs filed a Complaint asserting two separate federal
causes of action. She alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, that Defendants retaliated against her for exercising
her rights under the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution. She also contends that Defendants violated her
rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("
Plaintiff alleges she was employed by Defendant State of
Illinois Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (the
" AOIC" ) as an administrative assistant to the
chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit at the time her
employment was terminated.
Leslie Graves is a circuit judge in the Seventh Judicial
Circuit of Illinois, serving as the presiding judge of
Sangamon County at all times relevant to the claims in this
case. Defendant Barbara Mabie was employed by the AOIC as the
Seventh Judicial Circuit court administrator. However, the
Plaintiff does acknowledge that the individual Defendants are
entitled to summary judgment on the claims that are asserted
only remaining claims are asserted against the AOIC and are
pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Defendants
contend that Plaintiff has named the wrong Defendant and the
AOIC is not her employer.
Autumn Tibbs became the Administrative Assistant to the Chief
Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit in December of 2001 or
January of 2002. In that capacity, the Plaintiff was an
at-will employee and was physically located in Sangamon
County, Illinois. As an administrative assistant to the chief
judge, the Plaintiff was responsible for assigning court
reporters into courtrooms, tracking attendance, completing
payroll, assisting with the budget, paying bills and working
on various other projects as assigned.
Mabie became the Trial Court Administrator for the Seventh
Judicial Circuit in mid-2005 and retired in December of 2012.
The Seventh Judicial Circuit is comprised of the circuit
courts in Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Morgan, Sangamon and
Scott Counties in Illinois.
Illinois, circuit judges are elected and associate judges are
appointed to the bench. The chief judge is the judge who is
in charge of the administrative duties of the circuit and,
according to the Defendants, is the employer of non-judicial
employees of the judicial branch--such as the Plaintiff.
Citing the AOIC's answer to the complaint, the Plaintiff
maintains she was an employee of the AOIC. The Defendants
claim they inadvertently admitted in their answer that
Plaintiff was an employee of the AOIC and this stands as a
judicial admission for purposes of this motion. However, the
AOIC is not the sole employer of the Plaintiff. The complaint
did not allege that the Administrative Office was
the sole employer.
Presiding Judge is the judge who is in charge of day-to-day
administrative duties for that county. At all times
materially relevant to the complaint, the Chief Judge in the
Seventh Judicial Circuit was on a twoyear rotation.
judges had assigned court reporters and associate judges used
reporters from a pool of court reporters. In November of
2009, the circuit judges and their court reporters were as
follows: Kim Neuhoff was assigned to Judge Leo Zappa; Laura
Berry was assigned to Judge Patrick Kelley; Marybeth Evans
was assigned to Judge John Belz; Andrea Pryor was assigned to
Judge Pete Cavanagh; Tina Riebeling was assigned to Judge
John Schmidt; Beth Samet was assigned to Judge Leslie Graves;
and Tracey Mahan was assigned to Judge Patrick Londrigan. The
pool court reporters in Sangamon County, Illinois, were
Brenda Jones, Debbie Prather, Lynn Ruppert, Robbin Sterr and
Patrick Kelly was the Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial
Circuit from December of 2008 to December of 2010. Judge
Richard Mitchell was the Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial
Circuit from approximately December 1, 2010 to November 21,
2012. Judge Leslie Graves was the Presiding Judge of Sangamon
County from approximately December of 2010 to November 21,
2012. Judge Graves was the Chief Judge of the Seventh
Judicial Circuit from approximately November 22, 2012 to
December 1, 2014.
2009, the Associate Judges in Sangamon County, Illinois
included Judges Steve Nardulli and Robert Hall. Prior to
November 9, 2009, the pool reporters complained that the
reporters for the circuit judges got special treatment and
the reporters for the circuit judges thought that the pool
reporters complained all the time.
court reporters in Sangamon County were divided into three
groups: Lynn Ruppert and Debbie Prather were pool reporters
in one group; Nancy Kitchen and Tina Riebeling were pool
reporters in a group that advocated a more neutral position,
and Kim Neuhoff, Laura Berry, Marybeth Evans, Andrea Pryor,
Beth Samet and Tracy Mahan were reporters for the circuit
judges in a group that was in opposition to the
a meeting on November 9, 2009, the pool reporters were
complaining that the workload was unfair. They claimed to
have more work than the reporters for the circuit court
judges, and that the reporters for the circuit court judges
got special treatment.
Court Administrator Barb Mabie had meetings with the various
chief judges, during their terms as Chief Judge of the
Seventh Judicial Circuit, and asked about having all court
reporters in Sangamon County be in a pool and work for all of
the judges, rather than certain court reporters being
assigned to circuit judges. Neither Chief Judge Robert Eggers
nor Chief Judge Patrick Kelley were receptive to the idea.
2009, Chief Judge Kelley had a meeting with all of the court
reporters about their complaints of work assignments and his
response was that they needed to quit complaining, get to
work and accept any assignment. After the meeting, the work
atmosphere did not improve.
March 1, 2011, after Associate Judge John Childress had a
difficult time obtaining a court reporter for a trial, the
Plaintiff sent an email to the court reporters and asked them
to keep her idea of assigning court reporters quiet. The
Plaintiff proposed placing all of the court reporters into
categories based upon the amount of work they were performing
so that each court reporter could assist judges other than
the judge to whom she was regularly assigned. The Plaintiff
did not discuss the topic of the email with Chief Judge
Richard Mitchell, Presiding Judge Leslie Graves or Trial
Court Administrator Barb Mabie before the Plaintiff sent the
communication to the court reporters.
Plaintiff admits that her idea to categorize the court
reporters could be viewed as a pool or rotation of court
reporters, although that was not what she intended. Judge
Zappa saw the Plaintiff's March 1, 2011 email and thought
that Plaintiff intended to pool all of the court reporters.
In response to the Plaintiff's March 1, 2011 email, Judge
Zappa sent an email expressing his displeasure with the
Plaintiff's idea of a full rotation for court reporter
Mabie learned about the Plaintiff's idea to pool the
court reporters because she was included on the list of
recipients of the March 1, 2011 email sent by Judge Zappa and
was shocked that Plaintiff had tried to secretly implement a
pool when the Circuit Court judges had previously rejected
the idea on multiple occasions. Mabie discussed her surprise
with the Plaintiff about her attempt to pool the court
reporters. The Plaintiff apologized to Mabie for her conduct
and explained that she was not trying to implement a full
rotation. Mabie accepted the apology of the Plaintiff.
Plaintiff claimed that she felt humiliated at Judge
Zappa's response and therefore met with Barb Mabie and
Presiding Judge Graves in the early morning of March 4, 2011,
before others reported to work. The Plaintiff was upset at
the reaction of Judge Zappa and knew she had made a mistake
in attempting to reorganize the court reporters.
March 4, 2011 meeting, the Plaintiff expected to be
disciplined for the attempt to reorganize the court
reporters. At that meeting with Judge Graves and Barbara
Mabie, the Plaintiff explained her intent to reorganize the
court reporters, after which Judge Graves appeared to be
disappointed with her, though not angry and still supportive
of the Plaintiff.
the March 4, 2011 meeting, the Plaintiff could not pull
herself together so Barbara Mabie suggested that Plaintiff
contact her counselor to make an appointment that day. Based
on that suggestion, the Plaintiff left work and did not
return until after taking leave pursuant to the Family and
Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ). On March 9, 2011, the
Plaintiff requested and was granted leave pursuant to the
FMLA. Although the Plaintiff initially requested a leave of
absence pursuant to the FMLA until April 14, 2011, she
requested and was permitted an extension of FMLA leave until
May 1, 2011, when she was permitted to return to work on a
part-time basis from May 1, 2011, to September 2, 2011.
Autumn Tibbs returned to work in September of 2011 after her
first FMLA leave of absence, which included part-time
employment for four months, Trial Court Administrator Barb
Mabie tried to put the incident with Tibbs and the court
reporters behind her and felt the relationship with Tibbs was