Theresa Ely v. Dearborn Heights School Dist, et al
OPINION: the district court's opinion is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. R. Guy Cole , Jr., Chief Circuit Judge; Alice M. Batchelder, Circuit Judge and Deborah L. Cook, Circuit Judge.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 16a0414n.06
Case No. 15-2594
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
DEARBORN HEIGHTS SCHOOL DISTRICT
TODD THIEKEN; JEFFREY BARTOLD,
Jul 22, 2016
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE EASTERN
DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
COLE, Chief Judge; BATCHELDER and COOK, Circuit Judges.
COLE, Chief Judge. Plaintiff-Appellant Theresa Ely, a school custodian, sued Defendant
Dearborn Heights School District No. 7 and Defendants-Appellants Todd Thieken and Jeffrey L.
Bartold (collectively “Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Ely alleges the Defendants
violated her First Amendment rights by (1) engaging in prior restraint of her protected speech
and (2) issuing two written reprimands after she spoke to coworkers and the public about
asbestos exposure in a district school and its subsequent cover up.
Case No. 15-2594
Ely v. Dearborn Heights Sch. Dist.
The district court denied Thieken and Bartold’s motion for summary judgment on the
basis of qualified immunity. Noting that the analysis for a First Amendment retaliation and prior
restraint claim are the same, the district court applied the balancing test set forth in Pickering v.
Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968). First, the district court held that Ely engaged in
protected conduct by speaking as a private citizen on matters of public concern. Second, the
reprimand letters were adverse actions for purposes of a First Amendment Retaliation suit
because the second “plainly stated that continuing to engage in the ‘inappropriate’ conduct
described in the letter of reprimand could lead to further discipline including discharge.” Ely v.
Dearborn Heights Sch. Dist. No. 7, No. 14-14500, 2015 WL 8608493, at *7 (E.D. Mich. Dec.
Third, even if Ely was motivated by personal interest or her complaints were
exaggerated, “[t]he record contains sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that . . . the
balance of the Pickering factors still weighs in favor of allowing rather than suppressing her
speech about asbestos hazards in the defendants’ schools.” Id. at *6. Finally, the district court
concluded that Ely’s First Amendment rights in this particular context were clearly established at
the time the reprimand letters were issued. This appeal followed.
After carefully reviewing the district court’s opinion, the briefs, and the record in this
case, we conclude that the district court did not err in denying qualified immunity to Thieken and
Bartold. As the district court correctly set out the applicable law and correctly applied that law
to the facts contained in the record, issuance of a full written opinion by this court would serve
no jurisprudential purpose and would be duplicative. Accordingly, on the grounds stated in the
district court’s well-reasoned opinion, we AFFIRM.
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