United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 28, 2005.
MARY RENEE BRADFORD, Plaintiff,
LUZERNE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge
Before me is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 53.)
This case involves Plaintiff's claim that she was terminated by
Defendants, Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., then the District Attorney
of Luzerne County,*fn1 and Stephanie Wychock, Office
Administrator of the District Attorney's Office, in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)
and Plaintiff's claim that Defendants, Barbara Harned, Sharon
Prokopchak, Debbie Orzello, Colleen Pavlick, Paula Schnelly and
Denise Brill violated 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).
Because Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence of a
conspiracy, Defendants' motion will be granted as to the §
1985(3) claim. Because Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima
facie case of discrimination, Defendants' motion will be granted
as to the Title VII claim. Specifically, Plaintiff has not
presented any evidence that her position remained open to
similarly qualified applicants after her dismissal or that she
was replaced by someone outside the protected class. Furthermore, had
Plaintiff established a prima facie case of discrimination, she
still failed to point to any evidence from which a factfinder
could determine that Defendants' proffered legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason for her dismissal was actually
pretextual in nature. Therefore, Defendants' motion for summary
judgment will be granted as two both claims.
Summary judgment is appropriate 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." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is
material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect
the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party
need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material
fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute
is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact
is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Id.
Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has
the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue
of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR.
MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed.
1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where
the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has
failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of
her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material
fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire
record must be examined in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co.,
862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its
initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the
material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that
the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257.
The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether
they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v.
Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a
motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself
to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but
to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
A. Section 1985(3)
42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) provides:
[I]n any case of conspiracy set forth in this
section, if one or more persons engage therein do, or
cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the
object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured
in his person or property, or deprived of having and
exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the
United States, the party so injured or deprived may
have an action for recovery of the damages occasioned
by such injury or deprivation, against any one or
more of the conspirators. To establish a claim under § 1985(3), Plaintiff must prove (1)
a conspiracy; (2) motivated by a racial or class based animus
designed to deprive, directly or indirectly, the plaintiff of
equal protection of the laws; (3) an act in furtherance of the
conspiracy; and, (4) an injury or deprivation of a right or
privilege under the constitution or laws of the United States.
Lake v. Arnold 112 F.3d 682, 685 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing United
Bhd. of Carpenters v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825, 828-29 (1983)).
At the heart of a § 1985(3) claim is racial animus or
discriminatory motive. However, Plaintiff provides no evidence of
discriminatory animus behind the alleged conspiracy. Plaintiff is
African American. Yet, notably, when asked in her deposition why
the Defendants lied at her disciplinary hearing, she did not
assert it was because of racial animus. Rather, she stated she
did not know why they would lie. (Doc. 56 at p. 60.)
Furthermore, Plaintiff's only evidence of conspiracy is her
allegation that Defendants Harned, Prokopchak, Orzello, Pavlick,
Schnelly and Brill testified falsely against her at her
disciplinary hearing. The Plaintiff presents no evidence of a
meeting where the conspiracy hatched, but nevertheless disputes
the testimony of each Defendant. Essentially, Plaintiff asserts
that because all Defendants lied, they must have conspired with
each other for that purpose. As such, Plaintiff has failed to
provide evidence of a conspiracy or discriminatory animus behind
the alleged conspiracy and Defendants' motion for summary
judgment as to the § 1985(3) claim will be granted.
B. Title VII
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an
employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any
individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any
individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions or privileges of employment, because of
such individuals race, color, religion sex or
national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate or classify his employees or
applicants for employment in any way which would
deprive or tend to deprive any individual of
employment opportunities or otherwise adversely
affect his status as an employee, because of such
individual's race, color, religion, sex or national
This is a case in which Plaintiff claims she was the victim of
a discriminatory discharge. As there is no direct evidence of
racial animus in the termination of Plaintiff's employment, this
case is subject to the burden shifting analysis proscribed by
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
Therefore, Plaintiff must prove that (1) she was a member of the
protected class; (2) she was qualified for the job from which she
was discharged; (3) she was discharged; and, (4) the job position
was filled by a person outside the protected class, or the
position remained open and Defendant sought to fill the position.
McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802.
The second and fourth criterion raise issues in this case. The
second, viz job qualification, is subject to dispute. The
fourth, viz filling the position with a non African American or
the continued search for a candidate to fill it, is unsupported
by any evidence offered by Plaintiff. As such, Plaintiff has not
met her burden of establishing a prima facie case of
However, even assuming arguendo that Plaintiff had established
a prima facie case of discrimination, the Defendant has offered a
non discriminatory reason for terminating Plaintiff, viz
Plaintiff's misconduct. Given this stated legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason, Plaintiff must "point to some evidence, direct or
circumstantial, from which a factfinder could reasonably either
(1) disbelieve the employer's articulated legitimate reasons; or
(2) believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more
likely than not a motivating or determining cause of the
employer's action." Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 764 (3d
Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Plaintiff has failed to point to
any such evidence.
In its current posture, this case presents a situation where
the basis for the discharge is the testimony and statements of
the § 1985(3) Defendants. The Plaintiff, with the exception of
admitting to mentioning voodoo, testified in her deposition that
all of the allegations of threats and the possession of a firearm
at work are untrue. Plaintiff is pro se, an African American,
and states in her deposition that she has "a lot of evidence" of
discrimination. (Doc. 56 at p. 99.) While the Plaintiff's
discharge is based upon statements and testimony which Plaintiff
testified is, in large measure, untrue, those with whom she
disagrees did not discharge her. There has been no evidence
addressed indicating that the District Attorney or his
Administrator knew the statements of misconduct were untrue.
While they ultimately knew that Plaintiff disputed the
allegations of misconduct, they, as her employer, took action
based on the allegations, choosing to discount Plaintiff's
denials. This is appropriate for an employer to do, and provides
the legitimate non discriminatory reason for the discharge.
Furthermore, as discussed above, Plaintiff did not attribute
the § 1985(3) Defendants' allegedly false testimony or their
motivation in wanting her terminated to racial animus. When asked
why they would be untruthful, Plaintiff testified that she did
not know. (Doc. 56 at p. 60.) Moreover, when asked why the §
1985(3) Defendants would want Plaintiff terminated, she testified she was not saying
that they wanted her terminated. (Doc. 56 at p. 60.)
As such, Plaintiff has not presented evidence from which a
factfinder could reasonably disbelieve the legitimate articulated
reasons or believe that an invidious reason was probably a
motivating or determining cause for the termination. Therefore,
Defendants' motion will therefore be granted as to the claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
An appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, this 28th day of September, 2005, IT IS HEREBY
1. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Doc. 53) is
2. Judgment is hereby entered in favor of Defendants,
Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., Stephanie Wychock, Barbara
Harned, Sharon Prokopchak, Debbie Orzello, Colleen
Pavlick, Paula Schnelly and Denise Brill.
3. The Clerk of Court shall mark this case CLOSED.
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