May 24, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. l:14-cv-01369 - Michael M. Mihm,
POSNER, Manion, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
police officer Donna Nicholson appeals from a judgment
against her in this discrimination and retaliation case. She
also appeals the denial of her motion for reconsideration and
motion to disqualify Judge Mihm. For the reasons stated
below, we agree with the district court that Nicholson did
not present sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment
on either claim. Moreover, the district court did not err in
denying Nicholson's motion for reconsideration or the
motion to disqualify Judge Mihm, which was frivolous.
Therefore, we affirm the judgment below.
Nicholson has been a police officer in Peoria, Illinois since
1991. In 2003, she was assigned the position of Asset
Forfeiture investigator. Five years later, Nicholson began
having serious issues with fellow officer Jeffrey Wilson,
whom she accused of using Peoria Police Department equipment
to place her under surveillance. The Department conducted an
internal affairs investigation into Wilson's behavior,
after which he was suspended for twenty days (although
Nicholson notes that the suspension was not directly for the
alleged surveillance, but other things such as Wilson's
lewd sexual remarks about Nicholson's
daughter). Thereafter, Nicholson filed a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and then a lawsuit related to Wilson's
conduct. Her suit was settled and dismissed.
2012, Chief of Police Steven Settingsgaard issued a General
Order Regarding Transfer and Rotation ("Rotation
Policy"). The new Rotation Policy provided that all
specialty assignments, like Nicholson's position of Asset
Forfeiture investigator, would be subject to three-year
rotations. The current occupant of each position could seek
reappointment, however, and Nicholson did so, submitting her
application in August 2012. She interviewed in October, and
it did not go well. According to the panel that interviewed
her, Nicholson "[interviewed very poorly, seemed angry
[and] controlling." She began her interview by refusing
to answer any questions until she read aloud a nine-page
manifesto, clearly a highly unusual behavior. In the end, the
panel concluded that Nicholson was "knowledgeable"
but that the Department was
for [a] change." The panel selected Officer Troy Skaggs,
who it said "[g]ave an outstanding interview."
After her failure to retain the Asset Forfeiture position
(and having not applied to any other positions), Nicholson
was reassigned to patrol by default on January 6, 2013.
Nicholson discovered that she would not remain in the Asset
Forfeiture position, she filed a charge of discrimination
with the EEOC, alleging that sex discrimination and unlawful
retaliation cost her the job. After receiving a right-to-sue
letter, she filed this case. The district court granted
summary judgment for the defendants, and then denied
Nicholson's motion for reconsideration. The court also
denied Nicholson's motion to disqualify Judge Mihm, which
was made on the ground that he was counsel for Peoria more
than four decades ago. Nicholson timely appealed all three
Standard of Review
review the district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. Burton v. Bd. of Regents, 851 F.3d 690, 694
(7th Cir. 2017). Summary judgment is appropriate where
"there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Therefore, we view all
evidence in the light most favorable to Nicholson, who was
the non-moving party. Burton, 851 F.3d at 694. The
defendants are entitled to summary judgment if Nicholson
"cannot present sufficient evidence to create a dispute
of material fact regarding any essential element of her legal
claims on which she bears the burden of proof."
review the denial of a motion for reconsideration only for
abuse of discretion. United Cent. Bank v. KMWC 845,
LLC,800 F.3d 307, 309 (7th Cir. 2015). In this case,
however, our review of the motion for reconsideration
essentially merges with the merits of the summary judgment
disposition. That is because Nicholson argued below that the
district court failed to apply the correct legal standard
under this court's decision in Ortiz v. Werner
Enterprises, Inc.,834 F.3d 760 (7th Cir. 2016), and so
the lower court addressed the merits of that ...