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Marnocha v. City of Elkhart

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

August 27, 2019

MARGARET MARNOCHA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ELKHART, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Margaret Marnocha was fired from her position of Deputy City Attorney for the City of Elkhart after a new mayor was elected. Marnocha alleges she was sacked for exercising her First Amendment rights and because of her gender and age. Defendants counter that this house-cleaning was entirely appropriate since Marnocha held a policymaking position, and the next mayor was entitled to have his own team in place. They therefore seek summary judgment. Because I find that Marnocha, as the Deputy City Attorney, held a policymaking position, the motion for summary judgment [DE 94] will be GRANTED.

         Background

         As usual, I'll start with the facts recounted in the light most favorable to Marnocha. Although Marnocha was originally employed by the City of Elkhart as the Utility Attorney on September 27, 2010, at the time of her termination in November 2015, her position was Deputy City Attorney. During her tenure as Utility Attorney, several other attorneys resigned and were not immediately replaced. Marnocha was assigned additional duties, and she received a raise. [DE 60-5 at 58-59.]

         In May 2015, Marnocha transferred from the Utility Attorney position to the Deputy City Attorney position in the law department. [Id. at 48; 60-7 at 12.] At that time, there were only two lawyers for the City of Elkhart - Vlado Vranjes, Corporation Counsel, and Marnocha, Deputy City Attorney. [DE 60-5 at 51; 60-14, ¶10; DE 4, ¶46.]

         The job description of the Deputy City Attorney, which was updated in May 2015 upon Marnocha's transfer into the law department, summarized the position as follows:

The Deputy City Attorney is responsible for assisting the Corporation Counsel in providing legal counsel and representation to public officials, employees, boards and commissions of the City relating to municipal governance. He/she is also the labor and employment attorney and is the litigation attorney for the City handling all litigation before any courts, administrative bodies, and arbitrators.

[DE 60-5 at 48; 60-6 at 1; 60-14, ¶9.] The Deputy City Attorney's principal duties and responsibilities, as listed in the job description, are:

- Provide legal counsel and representation to all municipal officials, employees, boards and commissions of the City relating to municipal governance.
- Provide employment law advice and representation of management in all administrative and legal proceedings related to the employment context.
- Provide legal advice to the Human Relations Department in all matters related to Housing and Employment discrimination.
- Provide legal advice to the Human Resources Department in all matters related to employment discrimination and other areas of employment law.
- Represent the City's interest in legal proceedings not covered by the City's insurance program, and prosecute or supervise the prosecution of ordinance violations cases.
- Attend meetings of and provide legal counsel to any board or commission assigned by the Corporation Counsel.
- Perform legal research on any legal matter presented to the Office of the Corporation Counsel.
- Provide assistance to the Corporation Counsel in regard to any legal matter relating to ...

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