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Jordan v. Evans

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 20, 2016

ANTHONY JORDAN, KENNETH GREENLAW, THEODIS CHAPMAN, PATRICK NELSON, and A CLASS OF UNKNOWN PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
v.
TIMOTHY EVANS, CHIEF JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Anthony Jordan, Kenneth Greenlaw, Theodis Chapman, and Patrick Nelson, (“Plaintiffs”) are current and former employees of the Cook County Probation Department. Plaintiffs bring this suit against Timothy Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (“Chief Judge”) on behalf of themselves and seek to represent a class of similarly situated persons, alleging race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. Plaintiffs assert that the Chief Judge abandoned his statutory duty in violation of the Illinois Probation and Probation Officers Act, 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 110/13 (“Probation Act”). Plaintiffs also allege race discrimination in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 23/5(b) (“ICRA”). The Chief Judge moves for partial judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) on Plaintiffs' Title VII and ICRA claims (Counts I, II, and IV) insofar as they are alleged against him in his individual capacity, and on Plaintiffs' Probation Act claim (Count III) on the bases that the Eleventh Amendment bars this claim and that there is no private right of action under the Probation Act. Pl.'s Mem., 1, [65]; Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The Court grants in part and denies as moot in part the Chief Judge's motion. Because Plaintiffs concede that they only bring this suit against the Chief Judge in his official capacity, the Court denies as moot the Chief Judge's motion for partial judgment on Counts I, II, and IV. Additionally, because sovereign immunity bars Plaintiffs' claim under the Probation Act, the Court grants the Chief Judge's motion for judgment on Count III.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Jordan is an African American who worked as a probation officer from 1998 to 2015. On February 4, 2015, the Probation Department terminated him for failing to properly monitor and respond to electronic monitoring (“EM”) alerts of a particular youth assigned to his EM Unit. When this particular youth committed a crime while on Jordan's EM Unit, the Probation Department fired him. Although the Probation Department had never disciplined Jordan previously for failure to properly monitor and respond to EM alerts, he had entered into a “Last Chance Agreement” as a result of a prior allegation of poor work performance. The Probation Department invoked this Last Chance Agreement as the reason for his firing. Plaintiffs allege that the Last Chance Agreement was unfair and that Jordan, “as an African American, was a convenient scapegoat for the Department.” Second Am. Compl. ¶ 57, ECF No. 55.

         Greenlaw is an African American, who worked as a probation officer from 1999 to 2014, assigned to the Intensive Probation Services Unit, which requires frequent contact with youths on probation and extensive driving. In 2014, the Probation Department terminated Greenlaw for misusing an assigned gas card and failing to submit gas receipts and vehicle inspection forms at certain times. Plaintiffs again allege that the Probation Department fired Greenlaw because of his race and to provide a convenient scapegoat and example for other probation officers who made record keeping errors.

         Chapman is an African American who began working as a probation officer in 2003, and continues to work in that position currently. He has consistently received positive performance reviews and has no history of discipline. He has applied for the position of Supervisor, but he has failed the supervisor's written examination twice despite diligent preparations. Chapman has requested and been denied copies of his results for the supervisor's written examination. Plaintiffs allege that African Americans are disproportionately told that they fail this written examination and are not allowed to review their results. Plaintiffs allege that the examination is either intentionally or effectively discriminatory.

         Nelson is an African American who began working as a probation officer in 2001, and currently holds that position. Both Nelson and Chapman traveled to job-related training but were denied compensation for their travel time, whereas white employees engaging in similar travel received compensation. Chapman and Nelson have filed grievances related to their lack of compensation. These grievances were denied, and Nelson and Chapman allege that they were reassigned to field positions in retaliation for filing grievances.

         Plaintiffs further allege that from 2008 to 2013, African American probation officers constituted three quarters of the total officers suspended and/or terminated by the Probation Department. Plaintiffs contend that this disparity in disciplinary practices suggests a pattern of racial discrimination. Plaintiffs allege that the Chief Judge did not exercise his supervisory authority in taking any of the above adverse employment actions to ensure that such actions did not violate any State or federal laws.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Probation Act Claim

         Plaintiffs claim that the Chief Judge failed to exercise his general supervisory authority over disciplinary actions in violation of the Probation Act and seek injunctive relief. The Chief Judge moves for judgment on Plaintiffs' claim arguing that it is barred by sovereign immunity, and that Plaintiffs do not have a private right of action to bring a claim under the Probation Act. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the Chief Judge's motion.

         A. ...


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