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Siobhan Donegan v. Irene Livingston

July 3, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 14.) Plaintiff Siobhan Donegan claims her rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when she was detained and subjected to a Breathalyzer test by agents of her employer, the East Stroudsburg Area School District.*fn1 As the Court finds the test justified as a special needs search, Donegan's Fourth Amendment claim must fail. Moreover, as Donegan has failed to establish any infringement to her right of association under either the First or Fourteenth Amendments, that claim must also fail. Finally, in dismissing all of Donegan's claims predicated on federal question jurisdiction, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her remaining state-law claims.


Plaintiff Siobhan Donegan was employed by the East Stroudsburg Area School District ("the District") as an instructional aide. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶¶ 1-2.) She had been employed by the District since 2001, but was transferred from the High School to the East Stroudsburg Elementary School ("the School") in September of 2010 in order to fill a vacancy. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 9-10.) Donegan was not happy about this transfer. (Id. at ¶ 11.) At her deposition, Donegan testified that she did not feel welcomed in her new position, but that Principal Livingston was "never nice to anyone" and, as such, "the teachers were petrified of her." (Donegan Dep 15:16-24, 21:14-24, 23:9-15, Sept. 27, 2011.) At all relevant times, Defendant Irene Livingston was the School's Principal, Defendant Frederick Mill was the Chief of Police of the East Stroudsburg Area School District Police Department, and Defendant Terre Feinberg was a Police Officer for the District's Police Department. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶¶ 3, 7-8.)

On December 2, 2010, Donegan arrived at the School and clocked in. (Id. at ¶ 13.) She was asked to report to the Principal's Office to fill out some paperwork. (Id. at ¶ 14.) According to Principal Livingston, the secretary in the Principal's Office informed Livingston "that she could detect a smell of an alcohol . . . on Siobhan." (Livingston Dep. at 61:10-20, Sept. 27, 2011.) Principal Livingston then confirmed the "smell of alcohol" emanating from Donegan, and she then asked Donegan to come into her office once she was finished with the paperwork. (Id. at 62:11-18, 71: 71:5-23.) In having "felt that there was a detection of an alcoholic beverage," Livingston called her supervisor, Irene Duggins, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for the District. (Id. at 74:13-24; Defs.' Stmt. at ¶ 6.) Duggins explained that Donegan had left an "incoherent phone message" with the district office the night before and instructed Principal Livingston to detain Donegan in her office until further notice. (Id. at 74:25-75:6.) When Livingston finally asked Donegan if she had been drinking, Donegan responded that she had not been this morning, but "had a couple of drinks last night" as she was upset that her Mom's plane had been struck by lightening and had to return to Ireland. (Id. at 75:11-17.) Conversely, Donegan testified that she never drinks alcohol. (Donegan Dep. 38:2-4, 52:18.) At any rate, Livingston stated that she "never accused [Donegan] of being intoxicated. Not then, not now." (Livingston Dep. 66:1-2.) Donegan, however, testified that she overheard Principal Livingston say to Duggins that she had "Siobhan Donegan standing here in front of me and she's intoxicated. And I cannot have her around my little students being intoxicated." (Donegan Dep. 30:15-23.) Donegan was extremely shocked to hear this. (Id. at 30:24-31:2.)

Duggins, having received the call from Principal Livingston, attempted to contact Superintendent Sharon Laverdure but was unable to get her on the phone. (Duggins Dep. at 23:15-17, 23:18-25:9, Nov. 4, 2011.) Laverdure recalled differently, expressing that she received Duggins's call but directed her to follow protocol and to contact Human Resources for specifics. (Laverdure Dep. 6:14-16, 9:14-10:7, Dec. 12, 2011.) In either event, Duggins called the personnel office for guidance on how to handle an employee suspected of being intoxicated. (Duggins Dep. at 23:15-17, 23:18-25:9.) The secretary at the personnel office explained that the protocol was to have the secretary call the hospital to prepare testing, to have Chief Mill escort the employee to the testing location, and to alert someone from the support staff to make sure the employee obtained union representation. (Id. at 25:20-26:4.) Duggins expressed that the "protocol was activated based on Mrs. Livingston's phone call." (Id. at 29:15-16.) Duggins then called Chief Mill and expressed the situation to him, specifically that Donegan needed to be transported to Pocono Medical Occupational Health and that she should be provided with union representation. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶ 24.) While Chief Mill was aware of the protocol (Id. at 26:23-24), Principal Livingston expressed that she had never seen such a written protocol. (Livingston Dep. 92:19-21.) Superintendent Laverdure confirmed that the pertinent protocol was not written, but was based on prior practice. (Laverdure Dep. 10:11-20.)

Principal Livingston then directed Donegan to step into a conference room to await transport to the Pocono Medical Center with Mill and Feinberg. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶ 26.) Chief Mill had been summoned by Duggins, who informed Mill that there was a "situation" at the School "where a teacher's aide needed to be transported to Pocono Occupational Health." (Mill Dep. 10:22-25, 11:7-8.) Chief Mill*fn2 expressed that he choose not to initiate any investigation on his own accord, but that he also did not feel he had authority to disobey the transport order, either. (Id. at 26:14-27:20.) Upon arrival, Mill observed Donegan eating something outside the conference room, which Donegan explained was related to her diabetes. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶¶ 27, 29.) Mill had requested that Officer Feinberg accompany him because he didn't "want to be in the car alone with a female." (Mill Dep.12:23-13:3.) Mill and Feinberg explained to Donegan that she was going to be taken to the Pocono Medical center for a Breathalyzer test. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶ 31.) Chief Mill testified that he made no representation to Donegan about whether she was free to leave or not, specifically declining to make any conversation with her so that "[s]he wouldn't feel like she was under arrest" and that he "was not about to make [Donegan] feel she had restricted movement at all." (Mill Dep. 34:2-16, 38:2-4.) Chief Mill further opined that "[a]t no time did [they] make her feel she was under arrest" and that he specifically told Donegan that they were there solely for transport. (Id. at 33:15-34:7, 27:14-20.) Donegan testified that Chief Mill asked her how she got to work that day in case she needed to be driven home. (Donegan Dep. 34:23-35:4.)

Officer Feinberg testified that Chief Mill communicated to her that the two of them were going to be transporting someone suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. (Feinberg Dep., 9:23-10:11, Nov. 18, 2011.) Feinberg, however, was unclear as to whether Donegan was free to leave, and thus never explained to Donegan whether or not she was free to go. (Id. at 23:15-24.) Finally, Feinberg indicated that while she did not smell alcohol on Donegan, that she smelled it in the entrance of the school and in the conference room and that it smelled like rubbing alcohol. (Id. at 37:7-38-9.)

Donegan represents that she was told to stay in the conference room and not to move, and when the two officers arrived, they similarly told her that she had to stay in the room. (Donegan Dep. 31:10-23, 66:12-15.) They were in their full police uniforms with guns, although they never told Donegan that she was under arrest and they never put her in handcuffs. (Id. at 66:20-23, 31:23-25.) Donegan admitted that she was not "formally arrested," but that when she asked the officers what they were going to do, they responded that they were "going to take [her] to Pocono Medical and we are going to have [her] blood alcohol." (Id. at 28:1-2, 32:3-4.) While Donegan had represented to the School officials--including Principal Livingston--that she was not intoxicated, Donegan was agreeable to taking the test in order to prove that she was not intoxicated and to keep her job. (Id. at 36:4-19.) Donegan admitted that she was not forcibly taken, stating that she was "very passive" as she knew she had done nothing wrong, but opined that they might have forced her to go if she had protested. (Id. at 65:24-66:5.) Donegan requested that the Officers delay transport so that she did not have to be marched in front of a large number of people, and they acquiesced. (Id. at 66:24-67:6.) However, by the time they left, there were still late students and parents arriving. (Id. at 67:6-11.)

Chief Mill represented that he was alerted to the situation at 8:30 a.m. and that the test was administered at 9:01 a.m. (Mill Dep. 39:23-40:5.) The ride to the Pocono Medical Center was less than ten minutes. (Feinberg Dep 30:12-14.) When the technician presented Mill with the results, he did not look at them but instead took them back to human resources. (Mill Dep. at 37:5-13.) Donegan ultimately tested negative for alcohol and was given the rest of the day off with pay. (Defs.' Stmt. at ¶¶ 35, 38.) Upon being returned to the Elementary school, Donegan waited fifteen minutes for Livingston to return from an assembly, spoke briefly to Livingston, and clocked out by 9:45 a.m. (Donegan Dep. at 42:11-18, 60:2-62:7.)

Donegan filed her Complaint on April 27, 2011. (Doc. 1.) In it, she alleges generally that Principal Livingston fabricated the claim of public intoxication and had her arrested in an effort to embarrass her and force her to quit her job. Donegan further alleges that Defendants Mill and Feinberg knew that she was not intoxicated but still paraded her in front of students and parents at the School while in their custody. As such, Donegan brings two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful arrest and retaliatory filing of charges against all three Defendants. Donegan has also brought state law claims for unlawful arrest, slander, libel, and a false light invasion of privacy. This Motion is now ripe and is ready for the Court's review.


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show 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)(2). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See 2D Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

"When considering whether there exist genuine issues of material fact, the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256--57. The Court ...

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