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Houlihan v. City of Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 8, 2017

Daniel Houlihan, et al, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
City of Chicago, et al, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued April 18, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12-CV-6377 - Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Kanne, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         Chicago Police Department Unit 542 provides protective services for the city's mayor. The plaintiffs here are current and former police officers who served on this unit when Richard M. Daley was Mayor. But after Rahm Emanuel took office, the department demoted them, appointing different officers in their stead.

         The plaintiffs sued the City of Chicago, Emanuel, and numerous government officials, asserting two types of claims: first, that the defendants considered political loyalties when appointing officers to Emanuel's security detail in violation of the First Amendment and various consent decrees known as the Shakman decrees; and second, that the defendants considered race when selecting Emanuel's detail in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and various federal statutes.

         In one way or another, each of the plaintiffs' claims failed: the district court either dismissed them at summary judgment or they were decided against the plaintiffs at trial. The plaintiffs appealed, alleging that the district court committed numerous errors in the proceedings below. Because we conclude that the court did not err, we affirm.

         I. Background

         On April 24, 1989, Richard M. Daley began his term as Chicago's mayor. During his tenure, the Chicago Police Department assigned a security detail to protect him and his family. The plaintiffs here-Patrick Doyle, Daniel Houlihan, John Nolan, Robert Olson, Michael Padalino, John Pigott, Eusebio Razo, Veronica Rodriguez, Michael Roman, Richard Soto, and Carol Weingart-were once members of this detail, known as Unit 542. Although each held the rank of patrol officer, each was assigned to the security-specialist position, and as such, received a sergeant's pay.

         In September 2010, Daley announced that he would not seek reelection. Soon after, Rahm Emanuel began his mayoral campaign. Several Chicago police officers volunteered to provide security and to perform other tasks relevant to his campaign, like driving him to various speeches and events.

         On February 22, 2011, Emanuel was elected Mayor. The same day, the police department decided to assign a security detail to him until he was sworn in. The department asked an Emanuel aide named Michael Faulman to recommend officers for this detail. But Faulman was not experienced in security matters, so he asked Raymond Hamilton-one of the officers who volunteered on Emanuel's campaign-to recommend six people. Hamilton recommended himself and five of the other volunteers. All six of them had driven Emanuel to events during the campaign and knew their way around the city. Hamilton claimed that he based his recommendations solely on his and the other officers' merits.

         Faulman knew these officers and thought that they acted professionally and were good drivers, so he adopted Hamilton's recommendations. The department then appointed the six officers to the transition detail. Hamilton's appointment was later rescinded because he was a SWAT officer and the department concluded that working on this detail was an inefficient use of SWAT resources. In the end, the transition detail consisted of five officers.

         After finalizing the transition detail, the department began working on Emanuel's permanent security detail. The department's interim superintendent, Terry Hillard, took the reins on this task. Emanuel explained to Hillard that the detail should reflect the diversity of the city and should be "bare bones." (Tr. at 342.) Hillard considered the term diversity to include things like gender, people skills, language, and culture, in addition to race. And regarding the "bare bones" request, Hillard decided to reduce the number of positions from twenty-one officers and two commanders to sixteen officers and one commander.

         Hillard chose Brian Thompson as the commander. Thompson had served as a commander on Richard M. Daley's detail. Hillard had known Thompson for twenty years and considered him to be competent.

         To fill the sixteen officer spots, Hillard began his search with the officers already serving in Unit 542 on Daley's detail. Because Thompson had worked with these officers and knew them well, Hillard ask him to recommend some of them for Emanuel's detail. Thompson recommended ten officers; only two of them-Nolan and Roman-are plaintiffs here. Thompson claimed that he was embarrassed that he could not recommend more officers from Daley's detail, but in his view, these were the only ones warranting recommendation. He further claimed that he based his recommendations solely on the officers' abilities.

         Hillard also solicited and received recommendations from Assistant Superintendents Beatrice Cuello, Eugene Williams, and James Jackson-trusted members of his command team.

         About a week before Emanuel's inauguration, Hillard made the final selections for the sixteen officer spots on the detail. Irrespective of Emanuel's request for diversity, Hillard claimed that he did not base his selections on race. Instead, he relied on Thompson's and his command team's recommendations, appointing eight officers from Thompson's list and three officers from his command team's list. He filled the remaining spots with the five officers working on Emanuel's transition detail: he chose these officers not only because Emanuel was familiar with them and Daley wanted a smooth changeover between administrations but also because their work on the transition detail was relevant work experience. The final detail contained seven white officers, five Hispanic officers, and five black officers (including Thompson).

         None of the plaintiffs -all of whom are white or Hispanic-made the cut. The department immediately reassigned most of them as patrol officers. A few, however, were not reassigned right away. After Emanuel's May 16, 2011 inauguration, the department decided to assign a small courtesy detail to Daley. A Daley assistant requested that Nolan, Olson, and Roman serve on this detail. These officers retained the security-specialist title and pay until September 15, 2011, when the new superintendent, Garry McCarthy, decided to terminate the courtesy detail, finding it to be no longer necessary.

         The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against Emanuel, Faulman, Hillard, Thompson, Cuello, Williams, Jackson, McCarthy, and the City of Chicago. The plaintiffs alleged that the individual defendants engaged in patronage hiring in violation of the First Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the City of Chicago engaged in patronage hiring in violation of various consent decrees known as the Shakman decrees; the individual defendants, excluding Faulman, engaged in race discrimination in violation of both 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Equal Protection Clause under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and the City of Chicago engaged in race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

         The district court granted summary judgment, dismissing all of the claims against Emanuel, Faulman, Cuello, Williams, Jackson, and McCarthy-leaving only Hillard, Thompson, and the City of Chicago as defendants in the case. As for Hillard and Thompson, the court granted summary judgment in the First Amendment claim on qualified-immunity grounds but denied summary judgment in the equal-protection and § 1981 claims. And as for the City, the court granted summary judgment in the Title VII claim but denied summary judgment in the Shakman claim. Finally, the court dismissed all of Nolan's, Olson's, and Roman's claims.

         The equal-protection claim then went to a jury trial, [1] and the Shakman claim went to a bench trial. In the jury trial, the jury found for Hillard and Thompson. And in the bench trial, the court found for the City.

         The plaintiffs timely appealed.

         II. Analysis

         On appeal, the plaintiffs raise three issues. First, they argue that the district court misadjudicated their patronage claims. Second, they contend that the court committed reversible error in the equal-protection trial when excluding evidence of past racial discrimination and when instructing the jury. And third, they claim that summary judgment as to Nolan, Olson, and Roman was improper. We address each issue in turn.

         A. The Patronage Claims

         The plaintiffs' patronage claims include a First Amendment claim against Hillard and Thompson and a Shakman claim against the City of Chicago. Both of these claims rely on the same argument-that the defendants impermissibly considered political loyalties when selecting officers for Eman- uel's detail. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the department demoted them because they remained politically neutral and appointed different officers to the detail solely because those officers had volunteered to work on Emanuel's campaign. With five spots reserved for Emanuel's allies off the table, the plaintiffs claim that they were put at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the volunteer officers.

         The district court granted summary judgment for Hillard and Thompson on qualified-immunity grounds. The claim against the City then proceeded to a bench trial. After that trial, the court found in favor of the City. The plaintiffs challenge these decisions on appeal, arguing that Hillard and Thompson are not entitled to qualified immunity and that the district court's ...

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