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Meade v. Moraine Valley Community College

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

October 6, 2016

ROBIN MEADE, Plaintiff,
v.
MORAINE VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on the Plaintiff Robin Meade's (Mead) motions in limine, and on Defendant Moraine Valley Community College's (College) motions in limine. For the reasons stated below, Meade's motions in limine are denied and the College's motions in limine are granted.

         The court notes at the outset that this court granted the College's motion to dismiss, and on appeal, the Seventh Circuit found that this court should not have dismissed this action, and remanded this action for further proceedings. The Seventh Circuit stated that “[a]lthough Meade may not pursue a due process claim based on the deprivation of a liberty interest, she ha[d] pleaded enough to go forward on the theory that the college deprived her of a protected property interest” and that “[s]he ha[d] also stated a claim for retaliation in violation of her First Amendment rights.” Meade v. Moraine Valley Cmty. Coll., 770 F.3d 680, 688 (7th Cir. 2014). This court's ruling on the motions in limine is based upon the evidence before this court at this juncture.

         I. Meade's Motions in Limine

         Meade has filed five motions in limine.

         A. Matter of Public Interest (Motion in Limine 1)

         Meade requests in her motion in limine 1 that the court bar the College from arguing that the letter at issue in this case (Letter) merely involved “workplace gripes” and was not a matter of public interest. (M Mem. 2). Meade argues that the Seventh Circuit, in remanding this case, “already ruled on this issue.” (P Reply 1). In denying the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, this court noted that the Seventh Circuit stated that “it is difficult to see how any part of” the discussion in the Letter “could be considered purely personal to Meade, or of zero interest to the public.” Meade, 770 F.3d at 685. After the remand, this court in ruling on the motions for summary judgment stated that although the Seventh Circuit has indicated that at the pleadings stage the content factor favors Meade, the Seventh Circuit did not hold that factor to be dispositive on the matter of public concern determination. The Seventh Circuit found that this court erred in dismissing the instant action at the initial pleadings stage, based on the limited record before the Court. Whether the Letter involved a matter of public concern has not been resolved as a matter of law by this court or the Seventh Circuit and is still a question for the jury to decide. Therefore, Meade's motion in limine 1 is denied.

         B. Knowingly False or Reckless Disregard (Motion in Limine 2)

         Meade requests in her motion in limine 2 that the court bar the College from arguing that its officers had a reasonable belief that the Letter was knowingly false or prepared with reckless disregard for the truth. In denying the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, this court has already held that the College can pursue certain defenses such as that the College reasonably believed that the Letter was knowingly false or prepared by Meade with reckless disregard for the truth of the various charges. (3/3/16 MO: 10). Meade has not shown that the court erred in its prior ruling. Therefore, Meade's motion in limine 2 is denied.

         C. Waiver of Due Process Rights (Motion in Limine 3)

         Meade requests in her motion in limine 3 that the court bar the College from arguing that she waived her due process rights by not appearing at her Loudermill hearing. In denying the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, this court held that there is not sufficient evidence in the record to conclude as a matter of law whether Meade justifiably failed to appear at the meeting or whether the meeting would have accorded adequate due process to Meade. (3/3/16 MO: 14-15). Meade has not shown that the court erred in its prior ruling. Therefore, Meade's motion in limine 3 is denied.

         D. Cure of Due Process Violations (Motion in Limine 4)

         Meade requests in motion in limine 4 that the court bar the College from arguing that any due process violation was cured by the proceedings before Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). In denying the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, this court already addressed this issue, stating that since the adequacy of post-termination process is tied to the adequacy of the pre-termination process, which in this case must be evaluated by the trier of fact, the post-termination process in this case is not sufficient to warrant an entry of summary judgment ...


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