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Eddy v. Corbett

September 14, 2009

THOMAS EDDY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THOMAS CORBETT, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND SUSAN MALONE (CHIEF DEPUTY ) ATTORNEY GENERAL), DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Thomas Eddy ("Eddy" or "Plaintiff") filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants, Attorney General Thomas Corbett ("Corbett" or the "AG") and Chief Deputy Attorney General Susan Malone ("Malone")(collectively "Defendants") violated his rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by terminating his employment in retaliation for speaking out against what he regarded as age discrimination and illegal political targeting in the staffing of attorneys in the AG's office. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff has responded and the motion is now before the Court.

II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Corbett was elected Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in November of 2004, and took office on January 18, 2005. Corbett Decl. ¶ 3. In late January of 2005, Corbett met with the Civil Law Division of the Office of the Attorney General (the "OAG") in Pittsburgh to discuss his concerns regarding certain performance issues. Corbett Decl. ¶ 4; Eddy Aff. ¶ 1. Corbett alleges that he explained to all the employees the importance of strict adherence to office policies and procedures with respect to office hours and leave policy.

Corbett Decl. ¶ 5. Corbett also remarked about his intent to sift out the "dead wood" in the office, but as long as employees were doing their jobs, they had nothing to worry about. Eddy Aff. ¶ 5.

Eddy was hired as a Deputy Attorney General ("DAG") on November 1, 2000, and was assigned to the civil litigation section in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rovelli Decl. ¶ 4. On October 13, 2003, Eddy was promoted to DAG IV, the highest classification for a staff attorney in the OAG. Rovelli Decl. ¶ 6. DAG IV is a position which involves the performance of highly advanced, independent professional work rendering advice and legal services on matters of significant scope, importance and complexity. As a litigator, Eddy was expected to work with limited supervision, and his independent efforts and professional decisions could have significant impact on the OAG. See Rovelli Decl. Exhibit A.

Susan Malone, the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Western Region Office of the OAG, was directed by Corbett to confirm reports he had received about the disregard of the office hours and leave policy, lack of motivation and performance issues by several attorneys and staff members in the Civil Law Division of the Pittsburgh office. Malone Decl. ¶ 4. At a meeting with Corbett and members of his staff in April of 2005, Malone indicated that employees in the Civil Division of the Pittsburgh office, including Eddy, continued to report to work late, leave early and abuse the leave policy. Malone Decl. ¶ 5. The AG directed Louis J. Rovelli*fn1 ("Rovelli") and Malone to conduct individual counseling sessions in the Pittsburgh office on April 29, 2005. Malone Decl. ¶ 7; Rovelli Decl. ¶ 9.

At the April 29 meetings, both Rovelli and Malone indicate that all of the attorneys counseled, except Eddy, accepted the counseling professionally and indicated they would adhere to established hour and leave policies. Malone Decl. ¶ 8; Rovelli Decl. ¶ 10. Eddy admits that he felt "compelled to express [his] opposition to the policies implemented by [the AG] . . .", and that he was forceful, but respectful,*fn2 in his discussions with Malone and Rovelli. Eddy Aff. ¶¶ 17 and 24. Eddy further stated that Corbett had demoralized the Pittsburgh office and that the staff could no longer trust him. Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Concise Statement of Material Facts ("Pl. Res. To Def. CSMF") ¶ 15. Eddy further alleges that he expressed his deep concern regarding the dishonesty of the AG and his staff concerning what Eddy believed to be age discrimination in the termination of older employees*fn3 and political firings. Eddy Aff. ¶¶ 17, 18, 19 and 23. Both Malone and Rovelli, however, deny Eddy made any comments regarding age discrimination or political motivation in the office staffing decisions. Malone Decl. ¶¶ 13-15; Rovelli Decl. ¶¶ 14-16.

Malone and Rovelli attended a meeting with the AG and his executive staff on May 3, 2005, at which both Eddy's behavior and commentary at the April 29th meeting were discussed. Malone Decl. ¶ 17; Rovelli Decl. ¶ 18. At the meeting, the AG decided to terminate Eddy. Corbett Decl. ¶ 13. The consensus among the members of the executive staff was that Eddy did not exhibit the requisite judgment, temperament, loyalty or maturity for his senior position with the OAG. Corbett Decl. ¶ 12; Malone Decl.¶ 18; Rovelli Decl. ¶ 19.

Malone returned to Pittsburgh on May 4, 2005, and asked Eddy to report to her office on May 6, 2005. Malone Decl.¶ 18. John Piasecki, Special Agent in the Criminal Division of the OAG ("Piasecki"), was advised that a civil attorney with the Pittsburgh office was to be terminated on the morning of May 6, and he was to report to Malone's office that morning, remain outside her office while she met with the attorney, and escort the attorney from the premises thereafter. Piasecki Decl. ¶¶ 2 and 3. At the May 6th meeting, Malone advised Eddy that the AG had decided to terminate his employment. Malone Decl.¶ 22. Eddy admits that Malone advised him of his termination and he was escorted from the office. Pl. Res. To Def. CSMF ¶¶ 30 and 32.

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted when there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To support denial of summary judgment, an issue of fact in dispute must be both genuine and material, i.e., one upon which a reasonable fact finder could base a verdict for the non-moving party and one which is essential to establishing the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Id. The court's consideration of the facts must be in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment and all reasonable ...


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