United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Casey Caplin filed this civil rights action alleging
violations of her First Amendment rights, pursuant to Pending
before the court is defendants Lackawanna County and Brian
Loughney's motion for summary judgment regarding both of
plaintiff's claims which was filed under`. Plaintiff
contends that she was unconstitutionally terminated as
retaliation for testifying truthfully in another court case
against the County. Defendants contend that plaintiff was
terminated for admitting to wrongdoing in her testimony given
in the other case, i.e., for admitting that she failed to
report sexual misconduct at the County prison. Based upon the
following analysis, the court will GRANT the
defendants' motion for summary judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
of relevant background, on October 3, 2016, the plaintiff
commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§1983, claiming that the defendants engaged in
retaliation due to her participation in First Amendment
protected activities. (Doc. 1). On October 4, 2016,
the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 3).
The plaintiff, a former correctional officer for Lackawanna
County Prison (“LCP”) for over 15 years,
testified at a deposition in a federal civil rights case,
namely, Pleasants v. Lackawanna County, Civil No.
13-1611, M.D.Pa., on March 1, 2016. On June 20, 2016, the
plaintiff was interviewed by defendant Loughney, Deputy
Director for Human Resources for defendant Lackawanna County,
and he possessed the deposition transcript from the
plaintiff's deposition in the Pleasants case.
Loughney asked plaintiff if she testified truthfully in her
deposition and she responded that she did. On July 14, 2016,
the plaintiff alleges that she was terminated by the
defendants “because she provided truthful testimony
under oath.” In her amended complaint, the plaintiff
asserts two claims relating to her termination. In Count I,
the plaintiff claims that defendants, Loughney and Lackawanna
County, terminated her in direct retaliation for engaging in
a First Amendment protected activity, i.e., giving sworn
deposition testimony in a federal court case. The plaintiff
also alleges that the defendants retaliated against her due
to her testimony by appealing her award of unemployment
compensation and by using her testimony as evidence at the
Count II, the plaintiff asserts a municipal liability claim
against Lackawanna County under §1983 because it
allegedly failed to train and supervise its employees in a
way that would ensure they did not harm employees engaging in
truthful testimony related to court proceedings.
relief, the plaintiff requests reinstatement, back pay and
front pay as well as compensatory damages against both
defendants. She also seeks punitive damages as against
November 9, 2016, the defendants filed an answer to the
amended complaint. (Doc. 12). With their answer, the
defendants attached eight exhibits to support and supplement
their responses and statements made in the answer. The
plaintiff then filed a motion to strike the exhibits attached
to the defendants' answer, (Doc. 13).
November 18, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for judgment
on the pleadings. (Doc. 17).
February 14, 2017, the court denied plaintiff's motion to
strike the exhibits attached to defendants' answer to her
amended complaint, except with respect to Exhibit C, her
deposition transcript. The court also denied the
defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Docs.
24 & 25). See also 2017 WL 590277 (M.D.Pa. Feb.
discovery was completed, defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment, a statement of material facts, and an
appendix with exhibits on September 20, 2017. (Docs. 34-36).
On October 3, 2017, defendants filed their brief in support
of their motion. (Doc. 39).
filed her response to defendants' statement of material
facts with exhibits and her brief in opposition to
defendants' motion on October 9, 2017. (Docs. 40 &
October 25, 2017, defendants filed a reply brief in support
of their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 45).
motion for summary judgment is now ripe for disposition.
court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§1331 and 1343.Venue is appropriate in this court
since the alleged constitutional violations occurred in this
district and all parties are located here. See 28
is a former correctional officer at the LCP where she worked
for about 15 years. Plaintiff was terminated by the County
effective July 14, 2016. The reason given by defendants for
terminating plaintiff was for admitting in her March 1, 2016
deposition in the Pleasants case that she was not
truthful in the LCP investigation regarding correctional
officers involved in sexual misconduct with female inmates
and failing to follow protocols in the LCP manual, i.e., by
not reporting alleged sexual misconduct by prison staff.
deposition in the present case, (Doc. 36-1), plaintiff
testified that on November 23, 2011, she had specific
information about corrections officers involved in sexual
harassment or sexual misconduct with female inmates.
Plaintiff also stated that sometime on or prior to June 9,
2011, a female inmate at LCP named Jennifer Pasco personally
told her that “she blew CO Joe Black for pink sugar
packets”, i.e., Sweet'n Low. In the deposition,
plaintiff also stated that in her March 1, 2016 deposition in
the Pleasants case she admitted that she did not
immediately report Pasco's disclosure about performing
oral sex on CO Black to a superior and, that she knew that
sexual contact between inmates and correctional officers
constituted a crime of institutional sexual assault and a
violation of LCP policy. Plaintiff further admitted in her
March 1, 2016 deposition that she violated LCP policy by not
reporting the alleged sexual assault incident involving CO
Black and Pasco. Plaintiff also confirmed that she understood
the LCP policy to require a staff member to report a sexual
assault incident to a higher-up upon learning of the
case, plaintiff claims that she was terminated by defendants
due to her stated testimony in the Pleasants case at
her March 1, 2016 deposition about what Pasco had told her
regarding CO Black. She claims that she did not report
Pasco's allegations since they were “rumor”
and, since she did not personally witness Black assaulting
Pasco. There is no dispute that plaintiff did not ever
witness Black sexually assaulting any inmate at LCP.
Plaintiff also claims that management at LCP was already
aware about sexual misconduct by CO Black before she gave her
testimony in the Pleasants case and about the
specifics of the incidents with Pasco. Plaintiff testified
that LCP management, including Robert McGuire, a captain at
LCP and Vincent Mooney, former LCP Warden, was previously
made aware of CO Black's sexual misconduct by a ...