United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. LIMBERT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
above case is before the Court on a motion for summary
judgment filed by Defendants Randy L. Smith (“Defendant
Smith”) and the Office of the Trumbull County Engineer
(“Defendant Engineer's Office”) (collectively
“Defendants”). ECF Dkt. #56. For the following
reasons, this Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary
judgment and DISMISSES in its entirety the second amended
complaint of Plaintiffs Robert Gatti (“Plaintiff
Gatti”), Christopher Charnas (“Plaintiff
Charnas”), Kendall Lee Stauffer (“Plaintiff
Stauffer”), Timothy Davis (“Plaintiff
Davis”), and Jason Loomis (“Plaintiff
Loomis”) WITH PREJUDICE. Id.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
7, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint alleging
that at all times material to the complaint, they were
employees of Defendant Engineer's Office. ECF Dkt. #8 at
2. Plaintiffs averred that they were suing Defendant Smith in
his individual and official capacities as the County Engineer
of Trumbull County, Ohio. Id. at 3. They alleged
that Defendant Smith was the chief policy-maker for Defendant
Engineer's Office and acting within the scope of his
employment at all times relevant to the complaint.
Count One of the second amended complaint, Plaintiffs sue
Defendant Smith in his individual capacity, alleging that he,
acting under the color of state law, initiated and imposedthe
following adverse actions against them based upon his open
animus toward those employeeswho supported or associated with
his political opponents and/or those who engaged in union
a. On the job harassment (Stauffer, Davis, Loomis, Gatti),
b. Termination (Stauffer, Charnas),
c. Unwarranted civil lawsuit (Gatti),
d. Threats relating to employment (Gatti, Stauffer),
e. Unwarranted disciplinary actions (Gatti, Davis, Stauffer);
f. Discriminatory job assignments (Gatti, Stauffer, Charnas)
g. Posting a list of purported union sympathizers in the
workplace and taking adverse employment actions against each
person named on that list (All Plaintiffs)
h. Generally disparate job treatment (All Plaintiffs).
ECF Dkt. #8 at 4. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant
Smith's actions had a chilling effect on their clearly
established rights of freedom of speech, freedom of
association, and equal protection under the law. Id.
Count Two of their second amended complaint, Plaintiffs
allege that Defendant Engineer's Office is liable because
Defendant Smith was its chief policy-maker and consistently
attacked the First Amendment rights of Plaintiffs, which
constitutes the official policy and practice of Defendant
Engineer's Office. ECF Dkt. #8 at 6.
Plaintiff requests compensatory damages in the amount of $1.5
million, punitive damages of $1.5 million, attorney fees, and
any other relief deemed just. ECF Dkt. #8 at 6-7.
October 25, 2016, the parties consented to the
undersigned's jurisdiction. ECF Dkt.#24.
October 2, 2017, Defendants filed the instant motion for
summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims. ECF Dkt.
#56. On November 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a response to the
motion for summary judgment. ECF Dkt. #59. On November 16,
2017, Defendants filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt. #61.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in
pertinent part that the Court "shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, Advisory Committee
Notes ("The standard for granting summary judgment
remains unchanged" despite 2010 amendments to Rule 56).
Rule 56(c)(1) outlines the procedures for supporting or
opposing a motion for summary judgment, stating that:
(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a
fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). "The court must view the
evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Biegas v.
Quickway Carriers, Inc., 573 F.3d 365, 374 (6th
Cir. 2009). Rule 56(c)(3) provides that the Court need only
consider cited materials in determining a motion for summary
judgment, although the Court may consider other materials in
the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).
party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing
there exists no genuine issue of material fact.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.., 475 U.S. at 587. If
the moving party meets his burden, the nonmoving party must
take affirmative steps to avoid the entry of a summary
judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). To refute such a showing,
the nonmoving party must present some significant, probative
evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for resolving a
material, factual dispute. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
A mere scintilla of evidence is not enough; the evidence must
be such that a reasonable jury could find for the nonmovant.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A court may grant summary
judgment "only if the motion and supporting materials -
including the facts considered undisputed under subdivision
(e)(2)- show that the movant is entitled to it."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), Advisory Committee Note, 2010 Amendment.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
assert that they were subjected to adverse employment actions
by Defendant Smith in retaliation for their political support
of his opponent and their involvement in the union. ECF Dkt.
#59 at 5. In order to succeed on a First Amendment
retaliation claim, each Plaintiff in the instant case must
present a prima facie case of retaliation by showing:
“(1) he engaged in constitutionally protected speech or
conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that
would deter a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to
engage in that conduct; (3) there is a casual connection
between elements one and two - that is, the adverse action
was motivated at least in part by his protected
conduct.” Dye v. Office of the Racing
Comm'n, 702 F.3d 286, 294 (6th Cir.
2012), quoting Scarbrough v. Morgan Cnty. Bd. of
Educ., 470 F.3d 250, 255 (6th Cir. 2006). If
a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden then
shifts to the employer to show “by a preponderance of
the evidence that the employment decision would have been the
same absent the protected conduct.” Benison v.
Ross, 765 F.3d 649, 658 (6th Cir. 2014),
quoting Dye, 702 F.3d at 294 (quoting Eckerman
v. Tenn. Dep't of Safety, 636 F.3d 202, 208 (6th
Cir.2010)) (internal quotation marks omitted). After this
burden shift, the Court should grant summary judgment if,
“in light of the evidence viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, no reasonable juror could fail to
return a verdict for the defendant.” Benison,
765 F.3d at 658, quoting Dye, 702 F.3d at 294-295.
instant case, Defendants apparently concede that Plaintiffs
meet the first element of the prima facie case as they do not
present any argument as to whether Plaintiffs were engaged in
political support or association or such conduct through
union activity. Rather, Defendants focus on the latter two
elements, contending that Plaintiffs fail to establish
sufficiently adverse employment actions and they fail to
provide any evidence that the alleged retaliatory acts were
causally connected to their protected activities. ECF Dkt.
#56 at 6-30.
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