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Gerald Kohn, et al v. School District of the City of Harrisburg

November 6, 2012

GERALD KOHN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF HARRISBURG, ET AL., DEFENDANTS
v.
LINDA THOMPSON, ET AL., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a), Plaintiffs have filed a motion for partial summary judgment on liability. We are considering four defense motions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) seeking additional time for discovery before opposition to the motion must be filed.

The plaintiffs are Gerald Kohn, Julie Botel, and Rebecca Hostetler. They were formerly the superintendent of the Harrisburg School District, the deputy superintendent, and the assistant superintendent, respectively. They brought this suit to contest the termination of their employment without notice or hearing. The defendants are the School District; the District's Board of Control and the mayor-appointed members of the Board of Control, Gloria Martin-Roberts, Herbert Goldstein, Autumn Cooper, Sanford Long, Jennifer Smallwood; the "Elected School Board" and its members, Lola D. Lawson, Lionel Gonzalez, Wayne L. Henry, Randy King, Jeffrey Moore, Tiffiney Penn, Patricia Whitehead-Myers, Roy E. Christ, and Esther E. Edwards. The School District has brought into the case as third-party defendants, James E. Ellison, Esq., the District's former counsel, Rhoads & Sinon, the law firm where he practices, and Linda Thompson, the Mayor of the City of Harrisburg.

Plaintiffs present two main claims. One is under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the terminations violated Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The other is under state law, alleging breach of contract because Plaintiffs' employment agreements allowed termination only for good cause and only after notice and a hearing. Greater detail can be found in our memorandum dealing with the defendants' motions to dismiss. Kohn v. Sch. Dist. of City of Harrisburg, 817 F. Supp. 2d 487 (M.D. Pa. 2011), in which we dismissed some claims and allowed others to proceed. Id. at 514.

The four Rule 56(d) motions were filed by: (1) the Elected Board and the Elected Board members; (2) Roy E. Christ and Esther E. Edwards, members of both the Board of Control and the Elected Board; (3) the School District; and (4) the Board of Control and the mayor-appointed members of the Board of Control.

II. Discussion

Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment seeks judgment on liability on the following claims: (1) their federal due-process claims against the School District and the individual defendants; (2) their state-law claims in mandamus against the School District, the Elected Board and the Elected Board members; (3) their state-law breach-of-contract claims against the School District; and (4) their claims for declaratory relief against all defendants that they were illegally terminated. A review of the motion and supporting brief reveals that the factual basis upon which judgment is sought is that the record shows Plaintiffs were not given notice or a hearing before they were discharged.

Rule 56(a) allows a motion for partial summary judgment. In part, a "party may move for summary judgment, identifying . . . the part of each claim or defense --- on which summary judgment is sought." The discovery deadline in this case was extended to December 31, 2012, but as pertinent here, a motion for summary judgment may be made "at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b).

If nonmoving parties believe they need additional discovery to adequately oppose a summary-judgment motion, they may file an affidavit or declaration under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d). That Rule provides:

(d) When Facts Are Unavailable to the Non-movant.

If a non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;

(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to ...


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