Morrison Mahoney partner Gareth Notis and associate Francesca Cone recently prevailed before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit after extensive briefing and oral argument in an employment matter where we defended a municipality and its Police Chief.
In the underlying case, the client Town terminated plaintiff’s employment as a special police officer following an internal investigation into comments which constituted sexual harassment and violated the Town Police Department’s code of conduct. The plaintiff filed suit against the Town and the Police Chief alleging due process violations related to his termination proceedings and intentional interference with his potential employment for several other police departments. The plaintiff specifically contended that the Chief’s involvement in the internal investigation and termination hearing violated his procedural due process rights because the Chief’s alleged personal bias against him was so severe that the pre-termination hearing was rendered meaningless.
The plaintiff also claimed that the Chief’s statements to other departments with which the plaintiff was applying for employment caused those departments not to hire plaintiff. In the defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment, we were able to show not only that there was no dispute of material fact, but that there was evidence in the record which actively disproved plaintiff’s allegations. The United States District Court granted summary judgment on the papers, dismissing all counts.
The plaintiff appealed the District Court’s decision to the First Circuit, reasserting his earlier arguments and contending that in granting summary judgment, the District Court improperly weighed the credibility of the evidence, ignoring issues of material fact which precluded summary judgment. After briefing and oral argument, the First Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision. In the opinion, the First Circuit noted that the only possible issue precluding summary judgment (as raised by the dissenting judge) was waived by plaintiff for failing to raise it in his brief or in the underlying motion.
Additionally, the First Circuit held that plaintiff failed to show competent evidence to raise a material dispute as to the single issue which could preclude summary judgment: the reason plaintiff was not hired by one of the other police departments. Specifically, the Court discussed that there was uncontroverted evidence of the reason plaintiff was disqualified from employment with that department (unrelated to the defendants’ statements) in the form of an email from that department’s Chief, and reasoned that the series of inferences required to consider that fact in dispute were based on mere speculation and thus, insufficient to survive summary judgment.