ILNews

Court upholds discrimination claims in coroner's office

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the finding that an African-American Marion County Coroner took action against his white chief deputy coroner because of race, but ordered a reduction in the amount of compensatory damages the deputy coroner could receive.

John Linehan was stripped of certain duties as chief deputy coroner and eventually fired by then-coroner Dr. Kenneth Ackles. Ackles chose Linehan as his chief deputy coroner when he was elected. Ackles wanted to find a way to have more African-Americans work in the office.

Issues arose between Ackles and Linehan when Linehan wanted to discipline Alfarena Ballew, an African-American female deputy coroner, who was late to meetings, crime scenes, and the hospital. Ackles did not want to discipline her. Linehan prepared a written reprimand. Ballew later sent an anonymous letter to members of the City-County Council accusing Linehan of ghost employment.

Other incidents occurred that led to Linehan filing a complaint with human resources that he worked in a hostile environment. That same day, Ackles told Linehan he was going to make a change in chief deputies and later stripped him of some duties. Ackles fired Linehan in December 2005.

An administrative law judge and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the coroner’s office took action against Linehan based on his race and in retaliation for an internal complaint Linehan filed against Ackles. He received front and back pay, attorney’s fees, and $200,000 in compensatory damages.

The 7th Circuit granted the coroner’s office’s petition for review and affirmed the findings of discrimination and retaliation weren’t erroneous in Marion County Coroner’s Office v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and John Linehan, No. 09-3595. The judges did reduce the $200,000 compensatory damages award because of a lack of evidence supporting that amount. The testimony was brief and only indicated that Linehan had undergone weekly therapy sessions for several months for situational depression, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

Although the coroner’s office argued Linehan should receive no award, the judges found some measure of compensatory damages for emotional distress is warranted. They suggested $20,000, but if the respondents don’t consent to the remittitur, there should be a new hearing on the issue.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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