United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
Susan S. Amos, M.D., Plaintiff,
Vigo County Council, and Vigo County Treasurer Jim Bramble, in his official capacity, Defendants.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.
Susan Amos, M.D., is a female physician who was elected
Coroner of Vigo County, Indiana in November 2012. Her
predecessor as Coroner, Dr. Ronald Kohr, is a male physician
specializing in pathology who performed autopsies in Vigo
County without charging the County fees in addition to his
Coroner salary. Prior to his retirement in 2012, Dr. Kohr
advised Defendant the Vigo County Council (the
“Council”) that because he would no
longer be performing autopsies free of charge (since he would
no longer be the Coroner), Vigo County would need to budget
an additional $50, 000 for autopsies to pay either to him or
to other individuals that would perform autopsies after his
retirement. Additionally, certain property tax caps enacted
by the Indiana General Assembly had reduced the County's
tax revenue and thus affected its overall budget. Vigo County
also determined that it was paying its Coroner significantly
more than the average salary of coroners in comparably sized
counties. Because of the necessity of adding $50, 000 to the
budget to account for Dr. Kohr's free autopsy services,
implementation of the property tax cap, and the realization
that the Vigo County coroner was being paid more than other
counties' coroners, the Council adopted a budget in the
fall of 2012 that reduced the coroner's base salary from
$45, 579 (Dr. Kohr's salary) to $21, 270. Dr. Amos ran
unopposed for Coroner in the 2012 election, and took office
on January 1, 2013.
Amos initiated this litigation in December 2015, claiming
that the Council and Defendant Vigo County Treasurer Jim
Bramble, in his official capacity, discriminated against her
based on her gender by reducing the Coroner salary. Presently
pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by Vigo County and Mr. Bramble. [Filing No.
Standard of Review
motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a
trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. SeeFed. R. Civ. P.
56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether
a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely
disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing
to particular parts of the record, including depositions,
documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party
can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited
do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute
or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence
to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or
declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out
facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the
affiant is competent to testify on matters stated.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in
opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in
the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and
potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P.
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only
consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A
disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor
Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words,
while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary
judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome
determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d
521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant
to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence
it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its
version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus.,
325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is
entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder
could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson
v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court
views the record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp.,
512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence
or make credibility determinations on summary judgment
because those tasks are left to the fact-finder.
O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625,
630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited
materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district
courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the
record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the
summary judgment motion before them, ”
Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the
existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against
the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614
F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).
Statement of Facts
following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the
standards set forth above, that is, they are either
undisputed or presented in the light most favorable
to Dr. Amos:
The Vigo County Coroner Position
Vigo County Coroner position is a publicly elected office
with a four year term. Ind. Const. Art. 6, § 2(a).
Duties of the Coroner include: “1. IDENTIFICATION of
the deceased; 2. Determination of the CAUSE of death; and 3.
Determination of the MANNER of death.”
(last visited March 7, 2017). A Vigo County Coroner may not
serve more than two consecutive terms. Ind. Const. Art. 6,
§ 2(c). The Council is responsible for setting the
salary for publicly elected Vigo County officials, including
the Coroner. [Filing No. 41-18 at 4.] Since 1989,
the Vigo County Coroner has been either Dr. Kohr or Dr. Amos.
[Filing No. 41-16 at 2-3.]
Dr. Kohr's Initial Terms As Coroner
Kohr is a medical doctor specializing in pathology.
[Filing No. 35-1 at 12.] He served two terms as
Coroner from 1989 to 1996, where he received a salary equal
to other elected officials in Vigo County including the
Assessor, Auditor, Clerk, Recorder, Surveyor, and Treasurer.
[Filing No. 41-16 at 2.] Because Dr. Kohr was
limited to serving two consecutive terms as Coroner, he spoke
with Dr. Amos about running for Coroner when his term was up.
[Filing No. 41-17 at 18-19.] ¶ 1996, Dr. Kohr
hired Dr. Amos as a deputy Coroner so that she would
“get more of a feel for the office” before she
ran for Coroner. [Filing No. 41-17 at 19.]
Dr. Amos' Initial Terms As Coroner
Amos won the election in 1996, and served as Coroner from
1997 to 2004. [Filing No. 41-16 at 2.] During that
time, she received a salary equal to the salaries of the Vigo
County Assessor, Auditor, Clerk, Recorder, Surveyor, and
Treasurer. [Filing No. 41-16 at 2.]
Dr. Kohr's Second Terms as Coroner
Dr. Amos' initial two consecutive terms, Dr. Kohr served
as Coroner again from 2005 to 2012. [Filing No. 41-16 at
3.] While serving as Coroner during this time, Dr. Kohr
performed autopsies required by the Coroner's office
without charging professional fees in excess of the salary
authorized for the Coroner position by the Council.
[Filing No. 35-9 at 2.] Dr. Amos was aware that Dr.
Kohr was performing autopsies without assessing any
professional fee for those services. [Filing No. 35-1 at
Salary for Dr. Kohr's Successor
Budget Increase for Autopsies
2012, as Dr. Kohr's second two consecutive terms were
coming to an end, Dr. Kohr reminded members of the Council
that he would be retiring as Coroner at the end of the year
and would no longer be performing autopsies as part of his
Coroner duties. [Filing No. 35-9 at 2; see also
Filing No. 35-12 at 5 (agenda for Council's June 18,
2012 Annual Budget Committee meeting stating “Autopsy
Fees - Dr. Kohr will no longer be County Coroner and
autopsies will be charged on individual basis”).]
Specifically, Dr. Kohr advised the Council's Budget
Committee that the Coroner's budget would need to
increase its budget line item for ...