ILNews

Police officer’s suit alleging retaliation for political comment survives

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed summary judgment in favor of two Portage police officers and the city on a detective’s claim that he was transferred in retaliation for comments he made to a local newspaper following the mayoral primary election in 2007.

Roger Peele supported Steve Charnetzky’s Democratic primary campaign for mayor of Portage and worked on his campaign in his spare time. Charnetzky lost the primary to Olga Velazquez, who was endorsed by Porter County Sheriff David Lain. Peele spoke to the Northwest Indiana Times on May 8, 2007, criticizing coverage of the race and Lain’s endorsement. He said referring to Lain, “He won’t get any support here.”

The next day, the comments were published in the paper. On May 10, Peele was transferred to the desk-bound position of station duty officer by police chief Clifford Burch. Peele sued Burch, assistant chief Larry Jolley and the city, alleging retaliation and defamation.

In Roger L. Peele v. Clifford Burch, individually and as Portage Police Department Chief, et al., 12-3562, Peele only argued that the defendants punished him for his political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

He must first provide evidence that the defendants were motivated, at least in part, by a desire to retaliate against him for his protected speech. If he does that, then the defendants may counter by showing they would have reached the same result even without the protected speech.

The timing of his transfer was highly suspicious, the 7th Circuit noted. The court also pointed to the deposition of Joe Radic, the officer who held the station duty officer position prior to Peele. According to Radic, Burch told him that he would not have to work as the station duty officer any more because Peele was being transferred to the position because he “made the mayor mad.” This reference to the mayor was to Velazquez, who would presumably become mayor.

“If genuine, Burch’s statements would provide powerful evidence that Peele’s transfer was politically motivated. We think this evidence, combined with the suspicious timing of the transfer, could be enough to lead a reasonable jury to decide in Peele’s favor,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote.

This evidence also casts doubt on the defendants’ claims that they decided to transfer Peele on May 4 for other reasons but waited to tell him until May 10. The 7th Circuit remanded for further proceedings.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

ADVERTISEMENT