The doctrine of “pendent appellate jurisdiction” allows the city of Anderson to ask the District Court to stay proceedings in a case alleging city employees were fired because of political affiliation, ruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case against the city is directly tied to the result of the case against the city’s mayor.
Robin Allman and other former employees of the city of Anderson fired by Mayor Kevin Smith sued him and the city, claiming their firings violate their First Amendment rights. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted summary judgment in favor of the mayor on nine of the 11 plaintiffs, finding the two remaining plaintiffs’ claims may not be barred by the mayor’s claim of immunity.
Pratt refused to certify the case for interlocutory appeal or grant Smith’s motion to stay the proceedings pending appeal. The city also sought a stay of the claims pending against Smith after its summary judgment motion was denied. In order to prevail, the city has to show that Smith hadn’t violated aany constitutional rights, which would eliminate the city’s liability because its liability is derivative from the mayor’s.
Pratt denied both Smith’s and the city’s motions to stay.
The 7th Circuit reversed and stayed the proceedings against the mayor and the city, citing the doctrine of pendent appellate jurisdiction, which it noted is an embattled doctrine.
“The prospect of two trials involving the same facts and witnesses is not an attractive one. If the district court proceedings against the city are stayed, and the merits panel decides that the mayor did not violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, there will be no trial. If (with the stays granted) the merits panel decides that the mayor did violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights but is entitled to qualified immunity, there will be one trial, against the city. Finally, if the merits panel rejects the mayor’s appeal, the plaintiffs can try their claims against both the mayor and the city in a single proceeding. Each of these outcomes is preferable to allowing the proceedings in the district court against the city to continue while the mayor’s appeal is under consideration by this court,” Judge Richard Posner wrote in Robin Allman, et al. v. Kevin Smith, et al., 14-1792.