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Artis v. Santos

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

December 14, 2018




         This matter is before the court on defendant Adrian Santos' motion for summary judgment (DE # 46), and plaintiff Randall Artis' motion for voluntary dismissal of Count V of his amended complaint (DE # 40). For the reasons identified below, Santos' motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and Artis' motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The present dispute arises from Artis' termination from his employment with the City of East Chicago Clerk's Office. The following facts are undisputed for purposes of resolving the pending motion for summary judgment.

         In 2005, Artis pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge related to his theft of funds from the City of East Chicago (“the City”) during his tenure as a councilman for the City. (DE # 48-1 at 5-12; DE # 48-2.) Several years later, in the fall of 2014, Santos asked Artis to help him campaign in his bid to be elected Clerk for the City. (DE # 54-3 at 40, 44.) Artis obliged. (Id.) Santos won the election, and took office in January 2016. (DE # 48-8 at 5.)

         Meanwhile, in August 2015, the then-City Clerk Mary Morris Leonard had hired Artis as a junior clerk in the Clerk's Office. (DE # 48-3 at 6-7; DE # 54-3 at 29, 38.) In addition to his clerical duties, Artis was responsible for handling money, such as for the posting of bond. (DE # 48-1 at 15.)

         In December 2015, in anticipation of his entry into office as Clerk, Santos sought advice from the City's human resources consultant about administering background checks for all Clerk's Office employees. (DE # 48-9 at 5.) Santos wanted to administer background checks as part of his implementation of new professionalism standards. (Id.) Santos also wanted to obtain insurance coverage for the Clerk's Office. (Id.) At the time, the City was insured under a crime policy with Braman Insurance Services (“the Crime Policy”). (DE # 48-8 at 7-8; DE # 48-12.) The Crime Policy excluded coverage for a loss caused by an employee if the employee had previously committed a theft or other dishonest act. (DE # 48-8 at 7-8.) Santos testified that he believed that the Crime Policy would not cover an employee previously convicted of a felony if there was a subsequent claim related to that employee. (Id. at 11.)

         In the second week of January 2016, shortly after taking office, Santos asked Artis to support County Commissioner Mike Repay in his upcoming May 2016 bid for reelection. (DE # 48-1 at 24.) Santos also asked Artis to support Marissa McDermott in her campaign for Lake County Circuit Court Judge. (Id. at 26.) Specifically, Santos asked Artis to take Repay and McDermott through the West Calumet Complex to secure voter support from the community there. (Id. at 27-30.) Artis told Santos that he did not have time to help campaign for Repay and McDermott. (Id. at 27-29.) A few days later, Santos repeated his request and Artis again refused. (Id. at 30.)

         Two weeks later, on February 1, 2016, Santos terminated Artis. (DE # 48-13.) Santos told Artis that he was terminating his employment in light of his previous felony conviction. (DE # 54-3 at 69-71.) Santos also provided Artis with two termination letters, dated February 1, 2016, and February 4, 2016. (DE # 48-13.) The February 1, 2016, letter stated that Santos terminated Artis' employment based on his previous felony conviction. (Id. at 1.) The February 4, 2016, letter provided additional detail and stated that Santos had adopted new professionalism standards for the Clerk's Office, and now, as a condition of continued employment, all employees must meet the requirements for bonding. (Id. at 2.) Santos' letter informed Artis that, in light of his previous felony conviction, he did not meet the requirements for bonding and thus was terminated. (Id.)

         B. Procedural History

         In his amended complaint, Artis alleges that Santos is liable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his constitutional rights. (DE # 20.) In Count I, Artis claims that Santos violated his right to procedural and substantive due process. (Id. at 6.) In Count II, Artis claims that Santos retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.[1] (Id. at 9.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after an adequate time for discovery, 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). In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must identify specific facts establishing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Palmer, 327 F.3d at 595. In doing so, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must present proof in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         The court's role in deciding a summary judgment motion is not to evaluate the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate ...

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