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Kagarise v. Christie

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 26, 2013

STEVEN KAGARISE, Plaintiff,
v.
LISA CHRISTIE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

This § 1983 action involves claims of gender discrimination and retaliation brought by Plaintiff Steven Kagarise against fellow officers and supervisors of the Pennsylvania State Police. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant this motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff is a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police who was assigned to Troop G McConnelsburg, Fulton County, Pennsylvania. (Compl. at ¶ 1). On March 4, 2009, he filed this complaint against Lisa Christie, Jeffrey Watson, Willard Oliphant, John Stchur, William Tucker, Gregory Bernard, Michael Patrick, Joseph Kovel, John Brown, Richard Bosch, and Stacy Gelvin.[1] On December 13, 2010, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Ms. Gelvin. The complaint raises an Equal Protection claim and a First Amendment Retaliation claim.[2]

The plaintiff has been a trooper since 1991. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶ 3). During his employment, the plaintiff regularly objected to unwritten customs and policies, including quota systems that deprived troopers of their discretion in issuing citations. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 73-76; Compl. at ¶ 15). At one point, he notified the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (PSTA) and complained of the quota systems being implemented. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 75-76). He also reported his supervisors and others for misconduct, including sexual harassment. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶ 4; Compl. at ¶ 15). For instance, the plaintiff's report that Corporal Greg Edgin had sexually harassed a female officer resulted in Edgin's termination. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 4).

In 2006, Ms. Gelvin, his co-worker, was interviewed by the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) concerning an investigation of some "sexual emails" sent by two other officers. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶ 10). During the investigation, Gelvin also alleged that she had been the target of sexual misconduct by three officers, including the plaintiff. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 15-17). While Gelvin contended that she found the conduct by the other two officers to be threatening, she indicated that she was not intimidated by the plaintiff's behavior because she did not take him seriously.[3]

This launched an additional investigation of the plaintiff and the two other officers, Trooper Alan Deffibaugh and Sergeant David Copley.[4] A Disciplinary Action Report (DAR) was issue for the plaintiff stating that he had violated department policy and regulation. (Doc. Nos. 43 and 48 at ¶ 30). These findings were based on mobile data communications, which included sexually explicit messages. Additionally, the findings were based on several inappropriate acts committed by the plaintiff, including an incident where the plaintiff glued pictures of male genitals on Ms. Gelvin's calendar art. (Doc. No. 43 at ¶ 33). A disciplinary action was instituted against the plaintiff, which included a thirty-five day suspension and a one-year transfer to Chambersburg. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 20, 47-48).

Furthermore, findings during the initial investigation of the other officers also resulted in a third investigation into the appropriateness of Ms. Gelvin's own behavior on other occasions. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 12-14). As a result, she was suspended for two days for having forwarded to a female clerk an inappropriate message that had been sent to her by one of the other male officers.

After working with Gelvin for six months after his investigation, the plaintiff was transferred temporarily to Troop H Huntingdon and was told to have no contact with the people at the McConnelsburg station. (Doc. No. 48 at ¶¶ 19, 22-23, 47-48). Less than two years after his transfer to the Chambersburg station, the plaintiff requested a transfer to the central turnpike with a preference for the Bedford County, Everett station. However, he was initially transferred to the Bowmansville station and then later to the Everett station. (Doc. No. 48 and 43 at ¶¶ 69-72). As a result, the plaintiff was forced to commute a significant distance from his home. Because of these transfers and the allegedly discriminatory penalties, the plaintiff brought the current case. He opposes this motion for summary judgment.[5]

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is "genuine" when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party" based on the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.

A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by demonstrating to the district court that "there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the adverse party's response must cite "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322.

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must draw "all justifiable inferences" in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255. The court must decide "not whether... the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented." Id. at 252. If the non-moving party has produced more than a "mere scintilla of evidence" demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact, then the court may not credit the moving party's "version of events against the opponent, even if the ...


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