The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS HARDIMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff Johanna Shigle (Shigle) filed this case pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Mount Pleasant Borough (Borough),
the Mount Pleasant Borough Council (Council), and Michael Tabita
(Tabita). Shigle alleges that the Borough, the Council, and
Tabita violated her rights under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments to the Constitution. Defendants have filed a motion
for summary judgment, which is the subject of this Memorandum
Summary judgment is required on an issue or a claim when "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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 250-52 (1986); Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228,
231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). An issue is "material" only if the factual dispute "might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248.
"Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a
disfavorable procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part
of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the
just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The parties have a duty to present
evidence; neither statements of counsel in briefs nor speculative
or conclusory allegations satisfy this duty. Ridgewood Bd. of
Educ. v. N.E. for M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999). After
the moving party has filed a properly supported motion, the
burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(e). The non-moving party must make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of each element essential to his case on
which she will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 322-23. The facts derived from the evidence of record
must be taken in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Schnall v. Amboy Nat'l Bank, 279 F.3d 205, 209 (3d Cir. 2002).
Plaintiff Shigle is a lifelong resident of Mount Pleasant
Borough. She has an avid interest in the activities of the
Borough and has attended many Council meetings to listen and
comment on the affairs of the Borough, sometimes critically. The
Council meetings are held on the first Monday of every month and
are open to the public.
Although she previously attended Council meetings regularly,
Shigle admits that she did not attend any Council meetings in
either 2003 or 2004. She also admits that the only meetings that she attended in the two years prior to filing her complaint
were held on October 1, 2001 and March 4, 2002. In her
deposition, Shigle was agnostic regarding what occurred at the
October 1, 2001 meeting, nor has she since proferred any evidence
regarding what transpired there. For their part, Defendants
provided the minutes of the October 1 meeting, which indicate
merely that Shigle made a statement about a local matter. The
minutes do not evidence that Defendants precluded Shigle from
speaking or otherwise vexed her in any way. Accordingly, there is
no record evidence to suggest that Shigle was deprived of any
rights at the October 1, 2001 meeting.
The second meeting Shigle attended was held on March 4, 2002.
At that meeting, Shigle spoke during the public comment section
at the beginning of the meeting and Tabita interrupted her
because he believed that her comment related to old business.
Tabita allowed Shigle to finish her statement, however, in spite
of the interruption, as indicated in the transcript:
Tabita: So, please, if you have any comments, please
rise and state your name.
Shigle: My name is Johanna Shigle, 341 Washington
Street, and I am back. I have two questions and one
remark. My questions are in regard to a motion made
by Mr. Tabita some months ago concerning the hiring
of Mr. Miele as a consultant landscaper for the
borough. Why was this job created? What does he do?
What are his qualifications as a landscaper? Why was
this employment not advertised? Did you make this job
available to Mr. Miele so that he could receive the
borough medical hospitalization plan for him and his
Tabita: Mrs. Shigle, I'll stop you right there.
Comments are to current comments, topical issues,
subjects to be brought before this council for
motions at council meetings and not past history.
Shigle: Well, you can
Tabita: And that's old business.
Shigle: rescind the motion. My second question is,
in an anonymous donation to the borough for $2,000,
is it legal that an anonymous donation be paid back by definition of free money? Is
a donation and by the definition of free money is
that a donation, is the borough paying this back to
annual payments of a thousand dollars to Mr. Miele?
Now, my remark is to this council body, is, it is a
travesty of justice and an abuse of power when a
council person makes false innuendos and accusations
to try and deny citizens of their civil and
constitutional rights and their freedom of speech.
With these goings on, the people of Mt. Pleasant are
in trouble. Thank you.
Tabita: Thank you for your comments. Would anyone
else like to speak?
Near the end of the March 4, 2002 meeting, Shigle rose to speak
again, and the following exchange occurred:
Shigle: I have a question with our consultant
Tabita: Please be seated. We're not going to
entertain that question again tonight.
Shigle: Has he come
Tabita: Please be seated.
Shigle: Before this borough with regard to trimming
(inaudible) before the spring?
Tabita: Be seated.
Shigle: That's the question I have.
First Unidentified Male Speaker: Motion to adjourn.
Second Unidentified Male Speaker: Second the Motion.
Tabita: Moved and seconded. Ready for the question.
Other than the two exchanges discussed above, there is no
evidence of any interaction between Shigle and the Council or
Tabita. During the March 4, 2002 meeting, Council passed a rule limiting public comments to three minutes. Shigle
acknowledged in her deposition that the rule was not in place
prior to March 4, 2002 and admitted that she has never been
subject to that three minute limitation.
Shigle gave deposition testimony twice during discovery, and
there were several assertions made in her initial deposition that
conflict with her later testimony. In her first deposition,
Shigle stated that she was prohibited from speaking at several
meetings, but could not remember the dates of the meetings in
question. In her subsequent deposition, however, Shigle testified
that she could not remember a meeting where she was refused the
opportunity to speak and, in fact, spoke at every meeting she
attended. During her fist deposition, Shigle stated several times
that she was harassed at almost every meeting, and referenced
interactions that she alleged happened at several different
meetings. Nevertheless, in response to the Defendant's Statement
of Undisputed Material Facts, Plaintiff admitted that she had
attended only two meetings in the two years prior to this action,
the October 1, 2001 and March 4, 2002 meetings referenced above.
Contrary to the transcript of the March 4, 2002 meeting, Shigle
claimed in her second deposition that she was never asked to
curtail old business. Shigle also insisted that she never
attempted to speak at any time other than the public comment
section at the beginning of meetings, ...