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Hatcher v. Gary Community School Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

November 22, 2016

RAGEN H. HATCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 84], filed by Defendant Gary Community School Corporation on July 1, 2016, and a Motion to Strike Affidavit of Judy Cherry, Exhibit 3 and 4 and Portions of Plaintiff's Response Brief [DE 92], filed by Defendant on August 8, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment on the § 1983 federal constitutional claims and relinquishes its jurisdiction over the Indiana state law claims of breach of contract and tortious interference with a contract.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On September 30, 2013, Plaintiff Regan H. Hatcher filed a Complaint against Defendant Gary Community School Corporation and the School Board of the Gary Community School Corporation. On June 11, 2014, Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr. issued an Opinion and Order, granting in part and denying in part the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint.

         On August 7, 2014, the parties orally agreed on the record to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         After extensive proceedings to correct errors in Plaintiff's attempts to file an amended complaint, on March 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint against Defendant Gary Community School Corporation only, alleging claims of breach of contract (Count I), tortious interference with a contract (Count II), deprivation of her due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III), and deprivation of her rights of freedom of expression and freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV). Plaintiff attached four exhibits-an Attorney Employment Agreement for the period of June 13, 2006, through June 30, 2007 (Ex. 1), the August 8, 2014 Affidavit of Judy Cherry (Ex. 2), a December 22, 2008 letter from the President of the Board of School Trustees of the Gary Community School Corporation (Ex. 3), and a January 29, 2010 letter from the President of the Board of School Trustees of the Gary Community School Corporation (Ex. 4).

         On April 17, 2015, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint, which the Court granted in part and denied in part on October 22, 2015, dismissing Plaintiff's equal protection claim in Count III for failure to state a claim.

         On July 1, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims. Plaintiff filed a response on July 23, 2016, attaching the same four exhibits that she attached to her First Amended Complaint. On August 8, 2016, Defendant filed a reply in support of summary judgment and the Motion to Strike. Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion to Strike on August 20, 2016.

         MOTION TO STRIKE

         In the Motion to Strike, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Exhibit 2, the Affidavit of Judy Cherry (no relation to the undersigned), offered in support of her opposition to summary judgment, should be stricken from the record pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(4) because it is not made on her personal knowledge and is not signed under the penalties of perjury. Although there is no explicit statement that the Affidavit is based on personal knowledge, personal knowledge can be inferred from the content of the Affidavit in this instance. See Wine & Canvas Dev., LLC v. Roberts, No. 1:12-CV-1752, 2013 WL 1099895, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 15, 2013) (citing Credentials Plus, LLC v. Calderone, 230 F.Supp.2d 890, 904-05 (N.D. Ind. 2002); 11 Moore's Fed. Practice § 56.14[1][c] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2002)). Also, the Affidavit is sworn (and signed and sealed by a notary public); thus, the Affidavit need not comply with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1746 for unsworn declarations. The Court denies the Motion to Strike Judy Cherry's Affidavit. The Court denies as moot the remainder of the Motion to Strike because Exhibits 3 and 4 are unnecessary for the Court's ruling on summary judgment.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a motion for summary judgment be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “Summary judgment is appropriate when no material fact is disputed and the moving parties are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, meaning that no reasonable jury could find for the other party based on the evidence in the record.” Carman v. Tinkes, 762 F.3d 565, 566 (7th Cir. 2014).

         A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a), (c). The moving party may discharge its initial responsibility by simply “‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; see also Spierer v. Rossman, 798 F.3d 502, 508 (7th Cir. 2015). When the nonmoving party would have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party is not required to support its motion with affidavits or other similar materials negating the opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 325; Spierer, 798 F.3d at 507-08; Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168-69 (7th Cir. 2013).

         “Once the moving party puts forth evidence showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to provide evidence of specific facts creating a genuine dispute.” Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). The non-moving party cannot resist the motion and withstand summary judgment by merely resting on its pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1), (e); Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d 764, 769 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (1986)). Rule 56(e) provides that “[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the ...


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