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Perri v. Aytch

decided: December 22, 1983.

JOANN G. PERRI, APPELLANT
v.
LOUIS S. AYTCH, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF PROBATION OFFICER FOR ADULT PROBATION OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT, COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND THE HONORABLE EDWARD J. BRADLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDENT JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND EDWARD P. CARROLL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF DEPUTY COURT ADMINISTRATOR FOR MANAGEMENT SERVICES OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND MATTHEW LEWANDOWSKI, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PERSONNEL OFFICER FOR THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND CARL DIVENS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES FOR THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND THE CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Seitz, Chief Judge, Gibbons and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn

Opinion OF THE COURT

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

Joann Perri was dismissed from her position as a clerk-typist, probationary status, by the Adult Probation Department of the Court of Common Pleas of the City and County of Philadelphia. Her termination followed an arrest on a drug related charge that was withdrawn by the county district attorney's office. Perri was removed from her job without a hearing. She then brought suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against several Philadelphia court officers in their official capacities alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and pendent state claims.

In her suit, Perri claims that she was deprived of property and liberty interests without due process of law. In dismissing Perri's action the court held that as Perri was a probationary employee, her dismissal did not violate constitutionally cognizable property or liberty interests. The court also found that her federal claim "for wrongful discharge" was found to be barred by a six-month statute of limitations. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed the state claims without prejudice. Perri appeals and we reverse.

I.

Joann Perri was hired on April 12, 1980 as a clerk-typist by the Adult Probation Department and placed on probationary status for a period of six months. Probationary employees are hired on a trial basis and are given merit evaluations at the end of their second and fifth months. A decision is then made whether to discharge the employee or to grant permanent status.

On June 27, 1980, after employment of two and one-half months, Perri was arrested and charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing a controlled substance and conspiracy. Three days later the department placed her on an involuntary leave of absence without pay pending the disposition of the charges against her. Her two-month employment evaluation was completed on July 16, 1980. She received a "satisfactory" rating -- a rating in the middle category of the five performance rankings.

The state court, on August 28, 1980, suppressed the evidence relating to the criminal charges against Perri. The district attorney's office then withdrew the charges and the case was dismissed. Perri notified her employer of the dismissal of the charges.

Barry Cross, Deputy Court Administrator, thereupon recommended to Chief Deputy Court Administrator Caroll that Perri be returned to work immediately. This recommendation was approved by Caroll and Court Administrator Savitt. However, Louis Aytch, Chief Probation Officer, decided that Perri should not be reinstated.

On December 2, 1980, Aytch sent a letter informing Perri that she was discharged effective immediately from her employment because "due to the circumstances surrounding [her] arrest, [her] continued employment [was] not in the best interests of the department." Aytch based his decision on Perri's arrest as well as on information provided to him by the district attorney's office. Aytch also denied reinstatement because Perri had been absent from work (albeit involuntarily at the request of the employer) and expressed concern that if Perri were retained, she might be placed in a position of access to sensitive records.

II ...


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