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Milwaukee Police Association v. Flynn

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 12, 2017

Milwaukee Police Association, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Edward A. Flynn, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued February 14, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin No. 2:15-cv-00809-Charles N. Clevert, Jr., Judge.

          Before Rovner, Williams, and Hamilton Circuit Judges.

          Williams, Circuit Judge.

         Daniel Vidmar, Christopher Manney, and Rudolfo Gomez, Jr. were discharged from the Milwaukee Police Department, for cause, by Police Chief Edward Flynn. Their benefits and pay stopped immediately. They appealed their terminations to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (the "Board"), which rejected their appeals and they were permanently discharged. The former officers claimed that their employment did not end when they were discharged by the chief because they were entitled to employment until the conclusion of their appeals. Along with the Milwaukee Police Association, they brought this lawsuit alleging that they were denied constitutional due process and wages. The district court rejected their claims and granted judgment on the pleadings, finding that under Wisconsin law the former officers were not entitled to employment or pay and benefits between discharge by the chief and affirmation of discharge by the Board.

         This appeal followed, and we affirm. Under Wisconsin law, the former officers had no property interest in employment once they were discharged for cause by Chief Flynn. They were provided a full and adequate appellate process, and their discharges were upheld in accordance with Wisconsin law. And, they were not entitled to wages for the period of time between their discharge and the conclusion of their appeal under Wisconsin law as they were not employed during this time. So we affirm the district court's judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Daniel Vidmar was employed as a police officer for the City of Milwaukee. On January 1, 2014, City Police Chief, Edward Flynn, ordered that Vidmar be discharged from employment, and his pay and benefits were terminated immediately. Vidmar appealed his termination to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (the "Board"), which conducted a trial on May 12 and June 17, 2014 and affirmed, concluding that his discharge was appropriate.

         On October 15, 2014, Christopher Manney was discharged from his employment as a police officer by the City of Mil- waukee by Chief Flynn, and his pay and benefits were terminated immediately. Manney appealed, and the Board conducted a trial from March 19 through March 23, 2015, and concluded that discharge was appropriate.

         On December 3, 2013, Chief Flynn ordered that Milwaukee Police Department detective Rudolfo Gomez, Jr. be discharged from employment, and Gomez's pay and benefits were terminated immediately. As of the filing of this suit, Gomez's trial before the Board was incomplete.[1] However, the Board concluded that discharge was appropriate, and affirmed the discharge decision on July 24, 2015.

         On July 6, 2015, the Milwaukee Police Association ("MPA"), the labor organization that represents certain non-supervisory Milwaukee police officers as a party in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the City, with Vidmar, Manney, and Gomez (collectively the MPA and former officers are referred to as the "Officers") filed this lawsuit against Chief Flynn and the City of Milwaukee (collectively referred to as the "City") alleging a violation of procedural due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and seeking unpaid wages pursuant to Wis.Stat. § 109.03. The Officers alleged that Wis.Stat. § 62.50(11) and (18) provided them with a legal entitlement to employment and "pay and benefits" after the police chief discharged them, continuing until the Board affirmed their discharges from the force. The relevant time periods of their alleged deprivations are January 1, 2014 - June 17, 2014 (Vidmar), October 15, 2014 - March 23, 2015 (Manney), and December 3, 2013 - July 24, 2015 (Gomez).

         The district court granted judgment in the City's favor, finding that, once discharged by Chief Flynn, the Officers were not entitled to continued employment. Basing its order on the statutory interpretation and legislative history of § 62.50, the district court concluded that the Officers had no property interest in employment following discharge, and therefore, were not denied due process or owed additional wages. This appeal followed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. MPA has Standing to Sue

         Before we address the merits, we need to address whether the MPA has standing to sue. Article III, § 2 of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases or controversies. Arizonansfor Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 64 (1997). The standing requirements imposed by the Constitution are three-fold; a litigant must show (1) that she "suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent"; (2) "that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant"; and (3) that a favorable decision will likely redress the injury. Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 517 (2004) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). That Vidmar, Manney, and Gomez have standing is not disputed. Each alleged that he suffered concrete financial injuries, namely deprivation of wages, and financial injuries are prototypical of injuries for the purposes of Article III standing. See, e.g., United States v. Kerner, 895 F.2d 1159, 1162 (7th Cir. 1990). However, it is less clear that the MP A, an organization that does not claim financial harm, has standing here.

         The MPA has not pled any injury to itself, but instead asserts that it is a labor organization that has been recognized by the City of Milwaukee as the exclusive bargaining representative for certain officers in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the city. It alleges that "the MPA possesses a tangible interest in knowing the law as it may impact its members, as well as ensuring that its members are afforded due process ... ." However, an interest in the underlying law does not equal an injury. Neither can the MPA plead an injury to itself merely by pleading injury to some of its members. See Milwaukee Police Assn'n v. Bd. of Fire & Police ...

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