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DEFIORE v. VIGNOLA

November 8, 1993

ANTHONY E. DEFIORE
v.
JOSEPH C. VIGNOLA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; J. CURTIS JOYNER

 JOYNER, J.

 This case is once again before the Court upon motion of the Defendant, Joseph C. Vignola, for summary judgment. For the reasons which follow, the motion is denied.

 I. HISTORY OF THE CASE

 This case essentially arose in June, 1991 when the plaintiff, Anthony DeFiore, joined the staff of an organization called "Leadership for Philadelphia's Tomorrow," the alleged purpose of which was to ensure the election of Joseph C. Vignola to the position of City Councilman for Philadelphia's First District. Defendant was thereafter elected to that position in November, 1991 and formally took office in January, 1992. Prior to Mr. Vignola's election, the plaintiff had been a supporter of and was employed by James Tayoun, Vignola's predecessor, as his Director of Constituent Services. After Mr. Vignola's assumption of his city council seat, Mr. DeFiore again resumed his former constituent services position under Vignola and worked in that capacity in Defendant's City Hall office until November 16, 1992 when Defendant terminated him.

 By way of his complaint, Plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully terminated on the basis of his political alliance with Tayoun in violation of public policy and his right to free political association as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendant's motion for summary judgment, in turn, is premised upon the fact that the plaintiff has failed to support these allegations or to show that he was anything other than an employee-at-will and that even assuming that the plaintiff was not terminable-at-will, Defendant had just cause to fire him for insubordination.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions for Summary Judgment

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment is properly entered in favor of a movant "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Under this rule, the district courts are to look beyond the bare allegations of the pleadings to determine if they have sufficient factual support to warrant their consideration at trial. Liberty Lobby, Inc. v. Dow Jones & Co., 267 U.S. App. D.C. 337, 838 F.2d 1287 (D.C.Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 825, 109 S. Ct. 75, 102 L. Ed. 2d 51 (1988). As a general rule, the party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, admissions and any affidavits which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). In ruling upon a summary judgment motion, the court must assume the truth of the non-movant's evidence, drawing all reasonable and justifiable inferences that may arise therefrom in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Lockley v. Chao, 812 F. Supp. 246, 248-249 (D.D.C. 1993).

 This does not mean, however, that the non-moving party may rest upon the allegations contained in his or her pleadings in defense of a summary judgment motion. To the contrary, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) states, in relevant part:

 
"When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided for in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, may be entered against the adverse party."

 Thus, while the burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact is initially on the moving party, once such a showing has been made, the non-movant must present evidence through affidavits, depositions or otherwise which comprise of a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to that party's case. See: Celotex v. Catrett, 106 S. Ct. at 2552-2553; Keyes v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 756 F. Supp. 863 (E.D.Pa. 1991); Applications Research Corp. v. Naval Air Development Center, 752 F. Supp. 660 (E.D.Pa. 1990).

 B. First Amendment Right to Freedom of Association

 It is well settled that a state may not condition hiring or discharge of employees in a way which infringes on their right to political association. Bennis v. Gable, 604 F. Supp. 244, 251 (E.D.Pa. 1984). Indeed, the courts have recognized that the basic right of political association is assured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is protected against state infringement by the Fourteenth Amendment. Id., at 252 citing Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 356, 96 S. Ct. 2673, 2681, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1976). Freedom of association includes the right to engage in group advocacy of various political beliefs ...


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