Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cromley v. Board of Education case brief

Cromley v. Board of Education case brief summary
17 F.3d 1059 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 816 (1994)

Plaintiff employee appealed from a judgment of the United States District Court (Illinois).
The judgment denied the plaintiff's motion to disqualify counsel and granted summary judgment to the defendants, board of education, school officials, and a teacher, in an action that was brought under 42 U.S.C.S. §1983 in which the plaintiff claimed she had been denied various administrative positions because she had exercised free speech rights.

After two years of discovery, but before trial, the lawyer representing Ms. Cromley in her action against the Board of Education was hired by the firm who represents the Board of Education.

Whether the defendant’s firm should be disqualified on the grounds of conflict of interest for hiring the plaintiff’s lawyer while the litigation was still pending.


The court analyzed the issue under a three-prong substantial relationship test.
The test led to the conclusion that disqualification was not required, and likewise led to the conclusion that the attorney had not breached the Code of Professional Ethics in representing the (P). The attorney successfully rebutted the presumption of shared confidences in proving that appropriate screening procedures were employed timely and implemented fully.
The complaint had alleged that the defendants retaliated against plaintiff because she had complained about the sexual misconduct of another employee, a complaint that she asserted was protected speech. Plaintiff could not, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure P. 12(m), ignore the defendants' assertions that her protected speech was not a substantial factor in the decision not to reappoint her, and that, even if protected speech had been a factor, the defendant's decision would have been the same.
Because (P) did not present evidence, neither direct nor circumstantial, to refute the stated legitimate reasons for not reappointing her, reversal of the summary judgment was not appropriate in this case.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the lower court's judgment.

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