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Joseph J. Campbell v. West Pittston Borough

September 22, 2011

JOSEPH J. CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEST PITTSTON BOROUGH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

Hon. Martin C. Carlson

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson (Doc. 49), filed on August 23, 2011, which recommends that we grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 32) with respect to all of Plaintiff's federal claims. Magistrate Judge Carlson further recommends that we decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state-law claims in view of the recommendation with respect to Plaintiff's federal claims. Plaintiff Joseph J. Campbell ("Plaintiff" or "Campbell") filed objections to the report (Docs. 50 and 51) on September 9, 2011. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for disposition.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's R&R, grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Plaintiff's federal claims and decline to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's pendent state law claims.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former police officer with the West Pittston Borough Police Department, brought this action against the Borough and a number of its current or former Council members, alleging that these Defendants violated his rights under the United States Constitution, federal, and state laws in connection with actions taken with respect to his employment. Specifically, Campbell claims that the Defendants retaliated against him after he filed a prior lawsuit against the Borough by subjecting him to a hostile work environment and by making employment decisions that adversely affected him, in violation of the First Amendment. Campbell also claims that the Defendants violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., when the Borough, in 2008, appointed an officer one and one-quarter years younger than him to serve as Chief of Police -a position Plaintiff believes he was entitled to hold by virtue of his seniority within the Department. Campbell also seeks to hold the Defendants liable for damages under Pennsylvania state law based upon the same alleged conduct.

As noted above, Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends that we grant summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on Plaintiff's federal claims. With respect to Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim, the Magistrate Judge concludes that Plaintiff had not established a prima facie case because he has not shown that he engaged in protected speech or petitioning activity. Further, the Magistrate Judge reasoned that even if Plaintiff did establish that he engaged in protected activity, he has failed to come forward with sufficient evidence to support his claims that he was retaliated against for having done so. With respect to Plaintiffs age discrimination claim, the Magistrate Judge reasons that a one and one-quarter year age difference between Campbell and Chief Porfirio is insufficient to permit an inference of age discrimination, in view of the total lack of other evidence to suggest that age played any role in the Borough's decision to appoint Porfirio over Campbell to the position of Chief of Police.

We shall now turn to a review of the Magistrate Judge's recommendations and the Plaintiff's objections thereto.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Review of Magistrate Judge's R&R

When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record establishes "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to ...


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