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Geer v. Altiere

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

March 29, 2018

MICHAEL GEER, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS ALTIERE, SHERIFF, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER, [Resolving ECF, 27 ]

          Benita Y. Pearson United States District Judge.

         Pending is Defendant Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27) in this § 1983 employment case. The Court has been advised, having reviewed the record, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         I. Stipulated Facts and Background

         The stipulated facts[1] are as follows:

1. Plaintiff Michael Geer was hired by the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office as a full-time Deputy Sheriff in 2004.
2. Plaintiff served six years as a corrections officer in the Trumbull County Jail upon his full-time hiring.
3. On May 3, 2010, Plaintiff was reassigned to work security for the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office at the Department of Job and Family Services (“DJFS”).
4. Plaintiff was assigned to day shift security at the DJFS.
5. Plaintiff's Facebook posting is marked as Joint Exhibit #1 (ECF No. 32-1). It reads as follows:
6. Joint Exhibit #2 (ECF No. 32-2) is the Notice of Proposed Discipline served on Plaintiff and Plaintiff's appeal of the proposed discipline pursuant to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA).
7. Joint Exhibit #3 (ECF No. 32-3) is the Step II Finding of Major Tom Stewart after conducting the Step II Hearing pursuant to the CBA.
8. Joint Exhibit #4 (ECF No. 32-4) is the agreement reached between Plaintiff and Defendant concerning his discipline surrounding Plaintiff's Facebook post.

         In April 2015 there was an incident between members of the Baltimore Police Department and Freddie Gray which, unfortunately, resulted in Mr. Gray's death. Deposition of Plaintiff (ECF No. 25) at PageID #: 158; Deposition of Defendant (ECF No. 26) at PageID #: 287-89; Deposition of Major Harold Firster (ECF No. 30) at PageID #: 528, Page 13. At the time Plaintiff posted on Facebook, the nation was embroiled in media attention surrounding Freddie Gray and race relations between African-American citizens and the police. See Jones v. Chapman, No. ELH-14-2627, 2017 WL 1546432, at *4 (D. Md. April 28, 2017) (finding the death of Freddie Gray has been the subject of intense media coverage, both in Maryland and nationally). Multiple cities, including Baltimore, erupted with protests and civil unrest with confrontations between the police and citizens.

         Plaintiff posted the comment on Facebook (ECF No. 32-1) on May 2, 2015 while he was at home on his personal computer. His Facebook page clearly identified him as a Trumbull County Deputy Sheriff. ECF No. 25 at PageID #: 157; Plaintiff's Deposition Exhibits 2 (ECF No. 25 at PageID #: 223) and 3 (ECF No. 25 at PageID #: 224); ECF No. 26 at PageID #: 307. Plaintiff described his Facebook page as limited to friends and family. Plaintiff acknowledged, however, that anything he posts could be disseminated to ...


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