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Sullenberger v. Jobe

March 13, 2008

GREGORY SULLENBERGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SERGEANT CLIFFORD JOBE, LIEUTENANT BYRON LOCKE, AND CAPTAIN JOHN GALLAHER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Plaintiff brought this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment which was filed along with a statement of facts and a brief in support of their motion.*fn1 (Docket entry nos. 22, 23 and 24). Plaintiff responded with a brief of its own and a counterstatement of facts. (Docket entry nos. 28 and 29). Upon analysis and consideration of each submission, and as set forth in my Opinion below, I am granting the Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff currently works as a police officer for the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"). At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff served as an instructor for the Bureau of Training and Education, teaching various courses. During his tenure as an instructor he began to receive training on collision investigation, and by all accounts he became specialized in collision investigation, and was even given the title of "collision investigation training coordinator." (Sullenberger Depo. p. 10). According to Plaintiff, as the collision investigation training coordinator, he wrote the lesson plans for the collision investigation training classes and taught the "higher level" classes. (Ibid.)

Plaintiff claims that in November of 2003 he complained to his direct supervisor, Sergeant Jobe, that Lieutenant Locke had changed the curriculum of the collision investigation training in such a way that the training did not meet federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration guidelines. (Sullenberger Depo. p. 15-16). According to Plaintiff, he repeatedly asked Sergeant Jobe if the Lieutenant would meet with him to discuss the situation, but no meeting ever took place. (Sullenberger Depo. p.16-18). In March of 2004, while conducting a training in Hershey, Plaintiff broke rank and spoke with Captain Gallaher about his concerns with the changes Lieutenant Locke made to the collision investigation training curriculum. (Sullenberger Depo. p. 20). Several days after Plaintiff spoke with Captain Gallaher, Sergeant Jobe and Lieutenant Locke attempted to meet with Plaintiff to discuss his decision to break the chain of command by talking to Captain Gallaher about his concerns with the curriculum. (Locke Depo. p. 77-78; Jobe Depo. p. 64-66).

In May of 2004, Plaintiff requested five hours of travel time for a training he was conducting in Philadelphia, PA. Plaintiff filed the necessary paperwork to obtain payment for these five hours, but an internal investigation concluded that Plaintiff fraudulently submitted a timesheet for these five hours. Plaintiff received a fifteen-day suspension, which was later reduced to a seven-day suspension, and Plaintiff was permanently transferred to Troop A.

Plaintiff claims the internal investigation, which ultimately led to his temporary suspension and permanent transfer, was done in retaliation for him: (1) expressing his disapproval of the curriculum changes made by Lieutenant Locke, and (2) breaking the chain of command by sharing his concerns with Captain Gallaher. He claims First Amendment protection for the statements he made to Captain Gallaher, but Defendants disagree.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law. Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing F.R.Civ.P. 56). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the courts examine the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986).

III. Claims Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 for Alleged Violations of the First Amendment

Section 1983 states, in pertinent part: Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be ...


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