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Edinger v. Borough of Portland

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 8, 2015

Robert Edinger, Appellant
v.
Borough of Portland

Argued June 18, 2015

Appealed from No. C-48-CV-2011-10040. Common Pleas Court of the County of Northampton. Beltrami, J.

Christopher M. Shipman, Easton, for appellant.

Bernard T. Kwitowski, Bethlehem, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge (P.), HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge.

OPINION

Page 1112

P. KEVIN BROBSON, J.

Robert Edinger (Appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County (trial court), which granted the Borough of Portland's (Borough) motion for summary judgment. We now affirm.

Appellant was employed by the Borough as a municipal police officer. In 2010, the Borough terminated Appellant's employment, and Appellant filed a complaint with the trial court alleging, in part, tat the Borough violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by depriving him of liberty without procedural due process as required by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1] Following the close of the pleadings

Page 1113

and discovery, the Borough filed with the trial court a motion for summary judgment.

For purposes of summary judgment, the undisputed material facts are as follows. The Borough hired Appellant as a part-time police officer in 2001 and 2 later promoted him to the position of Officer in Charge. On October 25, 2010, without notice and a hearing, the Borough conducted a special meeting to discuss Appellant's employment. During the meeting, the Borough announced to the public and press that Appellant had failed to certify a speed timing device and that Appellant's employment was being terminated for " dereliction of duty." The Express-Times newspaper published an article concerning the Borough's termination of Appellant's employment for dereliction of duty for failing to certify a speed timing device.

The trial court issued an opinion and order granting the Borough's motion for summary judgment. In so doing, the trial court relied on an unpublished opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Brown v. Montgomery County, 470 F.App'x 87 (3d Cir. 2012). The trial court acknowledged that Brown did not have precedential value, but the trial court nevertheless found it significant that a large number of United States district courts have cited Brown. The trial court, holding that Brown was the applicable test, concluded that the Borough's statements were not " sufficiently stigmatizing . . . to implicate a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest," because the statements did not carry a stigma of moral turpitude. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 24, 26.) Appellant appealed to this Court.

On appeal,[2] Appellant argues that, in granting summary judgment in favor of the Borough, the trial court erred in concluding that the Borough's statements were not sufficiently stigmatizing to implicate a constitutionally protected liberty interest. Specifically, Appellant contends that the trial court erred in relying on Brown. Alternatively, Appellant contends that, under Brown, the Borough's statements implied that Appellant was issuing speeding tickets in bad faith, thus ...


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