The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner
This is a § 1983 civil rights action filed by Darrell Ober ("Ober"), a former captain with the Pennsylvania State Police ("State Police"), against nine State Police employees. The majority of Ober's claims were resolved in this court's memorandum and order dated December 18, 2007. (See Doc. 84.) However, defendants failed to assert an argument in support of their request for relief with respect to Ober's declaratory judgment claim in their original motion for summary judgment. Therefore, this court denied defendants' motion with respect to the declaratory judgment claim, but granted defendants the right to file a renewed motion for summary judgment addressing the declaratory judgment claim. (See id. at 8.)
Presently before the court is defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 86.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion will be granted.
I. Statement of Facts*fn1
In July 2003, Ober prepared a memorandum that detailed what he believed to be acts of public corruption committed by defendants Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller ("Miller") and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Periandi ("Periandi"). Specifically, the memorandum contended that these State Police officials used their power and influence to aid a state senator in attacks against a political enemy. (See Doc. 87 ¶ 1; Doc. 96 ¶ 1.) Ober retained a private attorney, Don Bailey, Esquire ("Attorney Bailey"), to review his memorandum to ascertain whether its contents met the legal definition of public corruption, and, if so, how best to distribute the information. (Doc. 84 at 9.) On advice of counsel, Ober submitted the memorandum to his immediate supervisor, defendant Major Leonard McDonald, who attempted to persuade Ober not to distribute the memorandum. (Id.)
Defendant Captain Robert B. Titler ("Titler"), the State Police disciplinary officer, found that Ober had violated Field Regulation 1-1.05 ("FR 1-1.05") by divulging the confidential information contained within the memorandum to an unauthorized individual, namely, Attorney Bailey. (See Doc. 87 ¶ 12; Doc. 96 ¶ 12.)
Titler concluded that due to Ober's violation of the regulation, criminal and administrative investigations had been compromised and the safety of officers had been endangered. (See Doc. 87 ¶ 12; Doc. 96 ¶ 12.) FR 1-1.05 prohibits State Police members from dispersing "any confidential information of the [State Police] or its members, without proper authority." (See Doc. 87 ¶ 12; Doc. 96 ¶ 12.) The regulation defines "confidential information" as information which, if disclosed, could:
a. Endanger a member, or any other person.
b. Impede a just disposition of a case . . .
f. Compromise or negate the judicial process . . .
h. Make known the contents of an internal or criminal investigation record or report to an unauthorized person
(See Doc. 87 ¶ 14; Doc. 96 ¶ 14.) Because Ober's discipline was premised on his disclosure of confidential information to an attorney, Ober alleges that FR 1-1.05 prohibits members of the State Police from consulting with attorneys to seek legal advice in violation of the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech, association, and petition. (See Doc. 95 at 3, 5.)
Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). It places the burden on the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. ...