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Dr. Karen Malleus v. Dr. John J. George

May 26, 2011

DR. KAREN MALLEUS, APPELLANT
v.
DR. JOHN J. GEORGE, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; DR. JILL M. HACKMAN, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; DR. JEFFREY A. CONRAD, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL/LANCASTER, NEW ERA EDITOR
DOE; SUNDAY NEWS EDITOR DOE; LANCASTER NEWSPAPERS, INC.; CINDY STAUFFER



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 5-10-cv-01357) District Judge: Honorable Juan R. Sanchez

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fisher, Circuit Judge.

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued April 15, 2011

Before: FISHER, JORDAN and COWEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Dr. Karen Malleus appeals the final order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granting John J. George, Jill M. Hackman, and Jeffrey A. Conrad's motion to dismiss Malleus's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that they violated her Fourteenth Amendment privacy rights. For the reasons discussed below, we will affirm.

I.

Malleus was a school board member for the Warwick School District. George and Hackman were also members of the school board. Conrad was the head of the Warwick Republican Party, and later a candidate for the school board.

In 2006, a student within the Warwick School District ("Reporting Student") reported that she had seen a teacher ("Teacher") hugging a minor student ("Minor Student"). Immediately after witnessing the incident, the Reporting Student told her substitute teacher about it. That evening the Reporting Student explained to her parents what she had seen. They then had her call her great-aunt, Malleus. Over the next few days, the Reporting Student and her parents met with various school administrators. The school and school district subsequently conducted an investigation into the Reporting Student's claim.

During the subsequent investigation Malleus shared credibility concerns about the Reporting Student, volunteering advice to various administrators that they should have more evidence before disciplining the Teacher based on the account given by the Reporting Student. She raised these concerns with other members of the school board, the school's administration, and the school's faculty. Malleus did so because the allegations against the Teacher were serious, and she questioned the accuracy of those allegations. The investigation into the incident ended when the Teacher and the Minor Student denied the allegations. The Teacher received a warning that the allegations were serious and that, had they been true, the Teacher would have been terminated.

In 2008, a police officer encountered the Minor Student and the Teacher engaging in sexual activity. The Teacher was arrested. Subsequently, the school board conducted its own investigation into the 2006 incident.

Malleus agreed to cooperate with the investigation because the attorney conducting the investigation told her that the report would remain confidential, and the school board expressed that the report would be confidential. In an interview, she repeated her opinion that the Reporting Student has a vivid imagination and a history of exaggerating her conclusions about others' conduct.

The final report detailed Malleus's interjection into the 2006 investigation. Malleus viewed the report as unfair, and she was upset with its conclusions; however, she believed it would remain confidential.

In the run up to the 2008 school board election, George and Hackman leaked a copy of the report to Conrad, who subsequently provided it to the press. Local papers released articles based on the report. Malleus alleges that these articles caused reputational harm, ...


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