Milwaukee Police Association, et al v. Edward Flynn, et al
Filed opinion of the court by Judge Williams. AFFIRMED. Ilana Diamond Rovner, Circuit Judge; Ann Claire Williams, Circuit Judge and David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge. [6853647-1]  [16-3743]
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
MILWAUKEE POLICE ASSOCIATION, et al.,
EDWARD A. FLYNN, et al.,
Appeal from the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Wisconsin
No. 2:15‐cv‐00809 — Charles N. Clevert, Jr., Judge.
ARGUED FEBRUARY 14, 2017 — DECIDED JULY 12, 2017
Before ROVNER, WILLIAMS, and HAMILTON Circuit Judges.
WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge. Daniel Vidmar, Christopher Man‐
ney, and Rudolfo Gomez, Jr. were discharged from the Mil‐
waukee Police Department, for cause, by Police Chief Edward
Flynn. Their benefits and pay stopped immediately. They ap‐
pealed their terminations to the Board of Fire and Police Com‐
missioners (the “Board”), which rejected their appeals and
they were permanently discharged. The former officers
claimed that their employment did not end when they were
discharged by the chief because they were entitled to employ‐
ment until the conclusion of their appeals. Along with the
Milwaukee Police Association, they brought this lawsuit al‐
leging that they were denied constitutional due process and
wages. The district court rejected their claims and granted
judgment on the pleadings, finding that under Wisconsin law
the former officers were not entitled to employment or pay
and benefits between discharge by the chief and affirmation
of discharge by the Board.
This appeal followed, and we affirm. Under Wisconsin
law, the former officers had no property interest in employ‐
ment once they were discharged for cause by Chief Flynn.
They were provided a full and adequate appellate process,
and their discharges were upheld in accordance with Wiscon‐
sin law. And, they were not entitled to wages for the period
of time between their discharge and the conclusion of their
appeal under Wisconsin law as they were not employed dur‐
ing this time. So we affirm the district court’s judgment.
Daniel Vidmar was employed as a police officer for the
City of Milwaukee. On January 1, 2014, City Police Chief, Ed‐
ward Flynn, ordered that Vidmar be discharged from em‐
ployment, and his pay and benefits were terminated immedi‐
ately. Vidmar appealed his termination to the Board of Fire
and Police Commissioners (the “Board”), which conducted a
trial on May 12 and June 17, 2014 and affirmed, concluding
that his discharge was appropriate.
On October 15, 2014, Christopher Manney was discharged
from his employment as a police officer by the City of Mil‐
waukee by Chief Flynn, and his pay and benefits were termi‐
nated immediately. Manney appealed, and the Board con‐
ducted a trial from March 19 through March 23, 2015, and
concluded that discharge was appropriate.
On December 3, 2013, Chief Flynn ordered that Milwau‐
kee Police Department detective Rudolfo Gomez, Jr. be dis‐
charged from employment, and Gomez’s pay and benefits
were terminated immediately. As of the filing of this suit,
Gomez’s trial before the Board was incomplete.1 However, the
Board concluded that discharge was appropriate, and af‐
firmed the discharge decision on July 24, 2015.
On July 6, 2015, the Milwaukee Police Association
(“MPA”), the labor organization that represents certain non‐
supervisory Milwaukee police officers as a party in the Col‐
lective Bargaining Agreement with the City, with Vidmar,
Manney, and Gomez (collectively the MPA and former offic‐
ers are referred to as the “Officers”) filed this lawsuit against
Chief Flynn and the City of Milwaukee (collectively referred
to as the “City”) alleging a violation of procedural due pro‐
cess pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and seeking unpaid wages
pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 109.03. The Officers alleged that Wis.
Stat. § 62.50(11) and (18) provided them with a legal entitle‐
ment to employment and “pay and benefits” after the police
chief discharged them, continuing until the Board affirmed
We note that public records and pleadings filed by the City indicate that
Gomez’s appeal before the Board was delayed because Gomez faced crim‐
inal charges for punching a handcuffed suspect while interrogating him
(the same conduct that led to his discharge). See Wisconsin v. Rodolfo Gomez
Jr., No. 2013‐CF‐004962 (Milwaukee Cnty. Ct. Feb. 13, 2015). Gomez was
eventually held criminally liable for this conduct. United States v. Gomez,
No. 2:16‐cr‐00055‐PP (E.D. Wis. June 16, 2016).
their discharges from the force. The relevant time periods of
their alleged deprivations are January 1, 2014 ‐ June 17, 2014
(Vidmar), October 15, 2014 ‐ March 23, 2015 (Manney), and
December 3, 2013 ‐ July 24, 2015 (Gomez).
The district court granted judgment in the City’s favor,
finding that, once discharged by Chief Flynn, the Officers
were not entitled to continued employment. Basing its order
on the statutory interpretation and legislative history of
§ 62.50, the district court concluded that the Officers had no
property interest in employment following discharge, and
therefore, were not denied due process or owed additional
wages. This appeal followed.
A. MPA has Standing to Sue
Before we address the merits, we need to address whether
the MPA has standing to sue. Article III, § 2 of the Constitu‐
tion limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases or contro‐
versies. Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 64
(1997). The standing requirements imposed by the Constitu‐
tion are three‐fold; a litigant must show (1) that she “suffered
a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or im‐
minent”; (2) “that the injury is fairly traceable to the defend‐
ant”; and (3) that a favorable decision will likely redress the
injury. Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 517 (2004) (citing
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61 (1992)). That
Vidmar, Manney, and Gomez have standing is not disputed.
Each alleged that he suffered concrete financial injuries,
namely deprivation of wages, and financial injuries are pro‐
totypical of injuries for the purposes of Article III standing.
See, e.g., United States v. Kerner, 895 F.2d 1159, 1162 (7th Cir.
1990). However, it is less clear that the MPA, an organization
that does not claim financial harm, has standing here.
The MPA has not pled any injury to itself, but instead as‐
serts that it is a labor organization that has been recognized
by the City of Milwaukee as the exclusive bargaining repre‐
sentative for certain officers in the Collective Bargaining
Agreement with the city. It alleges that “the MPA possesses a
tangible interest in knowing the law as it may impact its mem‐
bers, as well as ensuring that its members are afforded due
process … .” However, an interest in the underlying law does
not equal an injury. Neither can the MPA plead an injury to
itself merely by pleading injury to some of its members. See
Milwaukee Police Assn’n v. Bd. of Fire & Police Comm’rs of Mil‐
waukee, 708 F.3d 921, 926–27 (7th Cir. 2013). Because the MPA
does not plead that it suffered injury, it does not have stand‐
ing on behalf of itself. Id.
While the MPA cannot claim standing on its own accord,
it may still claim associational standing. Id. at 928. An organi‐
zation has associational standing if “(1) its members would
otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the in‐
terests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization’s
purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief re‐
quested requires the participation of individual members in
the lawsuit.” Id. (quoting United Food & Commer. Workers Union
Local 751 v. Brown Grp., Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 552 (1996)). The first
two prongs of this test arise from Article III, and the third
prong is prudential, meaning it may be abrogated or elimi‐
nated by statute. Id. The third prong of associational standing
is “best seen as focusing on … matters of administrative con‐
venience and efficiency, not on elements of a case or contro‐
versy within the meaning of the Constitution.” United Food,
517 U.S. at 557.
Assuming Vidmar, Manney, and Gomez are members of
the MPA, the first and second prongs of the associational
standing test are easily met. The former officers have standing
and the MPA’s express purpose is to protect the employment
rights of Milwaukee police officers. Similarly, the prudential
requirement for associational standing is made simple where,
as here, the organization seeking standing is joined in suit
with its members who have Article III standing. We need not
weigh whether the relief requested requires the participation
of individual members, because the individual members are
joined and standing has been met. See id. at 546 (citing Hunt v.
Washington State Apple Advert. Commʹn, 432 U.S. 333, 343
(1977)). So, for the purposes of this suit, the MPA has satisfied
the associational standing requirement.
B. No Violation of Procedural Due Process
As threshold standing issues have been satisfied, we turn
to the merits of the appeal. We review the district court’s grant
of judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c)
de novo. Katz‐Crank v. Haskett, 843 F.3d 641, 646 (7th Cir. 2016).
ʺTo survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a com‐
plaint must state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’”
Wagner v. Teva Pharm. USA, Inc., 840 F.3d 355, 357–58 (7th Cir.
2016) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). When assessing the facial plausibility of a claim, “we
draw all reasonable inferences and facts in favor of the non‐
movant, but need not accept as true any legal assertions.” Id.
at 358 (citing Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664–65 (7th
Cir. 2014)). As in a Rule 12(b)(6) analysis, our review is limited
to the pleadings; however, the court “may take into consider‐
ation documents incorporated by reference to the pleadings”
and “may also take judicial notice of matters of public rec‐
ord.” United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582 (7th Cir. 1991);
see also Emergency Servs. Billing Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 668
F.3d 459, 465 (7th Cir. 2012) (“When the plain meaning of a
statutory term is unclear, outside considerations can be used
in an attempt to glean the legislative intent behind the use of
the term.”); accord Firstar Bank v. Faul, 253 F.3d 982, 987–90
This case does not arise out of factual disputes, but is in‐
stead based on a fundamental disagreement on the law. The
Officers claim that they were deprived of procedural due pro‐
cess in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Consti‐
tution. To demonstrate such a claim, the Officers must estab‐
lish: “(1) a cognizable property interest; (2) a deprivation of
that property interest; and (3) a denial of due process.” Khan
v. Bland, 630 F.3d 519, 527 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hudson v.
City of Chi., 374 F.3d 554, 559 (7th Cir. 2004)). The first require‐
ment the Officers must demonstrate is that their claim in‐
volves a protected property interest. Id. Absent a property in‐
terest, the Officers’ claim fails.
Property interests are “not created by the Constitution, but
rather are created and defined by existing rules or under‐
standings that stem from an independent source such as state
law.” O’Gorman v. City of Chicago, 777 F.3d 885, 890 (7th Cir.
2015); see also Price v. Bd. of Educ. of Chi., 755 F.3d 605, 607–08
(7th Cir. 2016). Employment, although generally at‐will in
Wisconsin, see Forrer v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 153 N.W.2d 587,
589–90 (Wis. 1967), has been established by state law as a
property interest for police officers pursuant to Wis. Stat.
§ 62.50. See Beischel v. Stone Bank Sch. Dist., 362 F.3d 430, 436
(7th Cir. 2004).
It comes as no surprise, however, that police officers are
not entitled to indefinite employment. An officer’s state‐given
property interest in employment is subject to revocation and
it is at this intersection of Wisconsin State law—the line be‐
tween the Officers’ entitlement to a property interest and the
state’s revocation of the Officers’ property interest—that we
find the current dispute. The Officers allege that their pro‐
tected interest in employment continued after the police chief
discharged them and remained until the Board affirmed their
dismissal. The City counters that the Officers had no property
interest in employment once the chief discharged them. The
question of whether the Officers had a protectable interest af‐
ter the Chief Flynn’s order of discharge is governed by Wis.
Stat. § 62.50. So we begin with an analysis of that statute.
a. Statutory Interpretation (Wis. Stat. § 62.50)
Wisconsin Statute § 62.50 governs police and fire depart‐
ments in “1st class cities” in Wisconsin.2 The statute, which
includes thirty‐two subsections, maps out required proce‐
dures for Milwaukee police and fire departments, covering
topics from the appointment of chiefs to the printing and dis‐
tribution of regulations. See Wis. Stat. § 62.50(6), (4). Section
62.50 also governs employment protections for officers who
are members of the Milwaukee police department force. See
Wis. Stat. §§ 62.50(11)–(18). The Officers argue that it is this
Milwaukee is a “1st class” city because it has a population of larger than
150,000. Wis. Stat. § 62.05(1)(a).
statute that provides them with a property interest in employ‐
ment after being dismissed by the chief. But, we disagree.
Under Wisconsin law, “the purpose of statutory interpre‐
tation is to determine what the statute means so that it may
be given its full, proper, and intended effect.” State ex rel. Kalal
v. Circuit Court for Dane Cty., 681 N.W.2d 110, 124 (Wis. 2004).
Interpretation begins with the statute’s language, id., and the
language of the statute is to be read “in the context in which
it is used.” Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. Flynn, 801 N.W.2d 466,
471 (Wis. Ct. App. 2011) (quoting Kalal, 681 N.W.2d at 124). A
statute is considered “not in isolation but as part of a whole;
in relation to the language of surrounding or closely‐related
statutes; and reasonably, to avoid absurd or unreasonable re‐
sults.” Id. Therefore, interpretation of one subsection of a stat‐
ute relies on the full context of that statute.
As required by Wisconsin law, our analysis starts with the
language of the statute. Subsection § 62.50(11), titled “Dis‐
charge or suspension,” provides:
No member of the police force … may be dis‐
charged or suspended for a term exceeding 30
days by the chief … except for cause and after a
trial under this section.
In claiming they have a property interest, the Officers ar‐
gue that that the relevant analysis before the court can be
boiled down to a strict reading of § 62.50(11), which mandates
that a police officer cannot be discharged unless there is (1)
cause;3 and (2) a trial before the Board. They argue that this
language dictates that Officers retain a protected interest in
The Officers do not dispute that they were fired for cause.
employment until their trials on appeal. In making this argu‐
ment, the Officers stress that it is crucial to follow the inter‐
pretive principle that the “specific trumps the general,” and
highlight that Wis. Stat. § 62.50(11) is the only subsection that
specifically spells out what must take place before a discharge
can occur. They assert that because § 62.50(11) permits dis‐
charge only after a trial, § 62.50 provides a system whereby
the chief merely recommends discharge, and it is only the
Board that can effectuate a discharge.
We find no support for the Officers’ assertion that the po‐
lice chief merely “recommends” a “preliminary” discharge
under § 62.50(11). The Officers’ allegation that the chief’s “au‐
thority is limited to suspending a member’s police powers
pending a trial before the Board,” is directly contradicted by
the language of the statute. Section 62.50(11) plainly provides
that an officer may be discharged “by the chief.” There is no
qualifier that leads us to believe that a discharge by the chief
has no effect or is equivalent to suspension.
At first glance, it may be tempting to read § 62.50(11) to
stand for the proposition that no discharge can be effected un‐
til “after a trial,” but it is not simply § 62.50(11) that we must
consider. The language of the statute must be considered as a
whole and the “[c]ontext is important to meaning” as is “the
structure of a statute in which the operative language ap‐
pears.” Kalal, 681 N.W.2d at 124; see also Wittman v. Koenig, 831
F.3d 416, 422 (7th Cir. 2016). Therefore, to decipher the legis‐
lative intent of § 62.50, we must evaluate all other relevant
subsections of the statute to give context to the phrase “after
a trial under this section.”
Subsection § 62.50(13), titled “Notice of discharge or sus‐
pension; appeals” states:
The chief discharging or suspending for a pe‐
riod exceeding 5 days any member of the force
shall give written notice of the discharge or sus‐
pension to the member and, at the same time
that the notice is given, shall also give the mem‐
ber any exculpatory evidence in the chief’s pos‐
session related to the discharge or suspension.
The chief shall also immediately report the no‐
tice of the discharge or suspension to the secre‐
tary of the board of fire and police commission‐
ers together with a complaint setting forth the
reasons for the discharge or suspension and the
name of the complainant if other than the chief.
Within 10 days after the date of service of the
notice of a discharge or suspension order the
members so discharged or suspended may ap‐
peal from the order of discharge or suspension
or discipline to the board of fire and police com‐
missioners … .
Subsections § 62.50(14)–(16) relate to proceedings before
the Board and are titled “Complaint,” “Notice of trial,” and
“trial,” and § 62.50(17), titled “Decision” provides, in relevant
If the board or panel determines that the
charges are sustained, the board shall at once
determine whether the good of the service re‐
quires that the accused be permanently dis‐
charged or be suspended without pay for a pe‐
riod not exceeding 60 days or reduced in rank.
If the charges are not sustained the accused shall
be immediately reinstated in his or her former
position, without prejudice.
Evaluation of these subsections indicate that discharge or
suspension of a Milwaukee police officer has two distinct
phases. The first phase is a discharge or suspension by the
chief, which must be made for cause, as embodied in
§ 62.50(11). The second phase is elective, and provides for a
trial and appeal of discharge or suspension, as provided in
§ 62.50(14)–(17). The second phase occurs if requested by the
discharged or suspended officer pursuant to § 62.50(13) (that
subsection is appropriately titled: “Notice of discharge or sus‐
pension; appeals.”). The chronological structure of the tiered
discharge or suspension process flows through the statute,
and explains why § 62.50(11) mentions a “trial under this sec‐
tion”—because after discharge (or suspension) by the chief, a
former officer is entitled to a trial and appeal before the Board
pursuant to § 62.50(13)–(17). Such is the process officers are
due under the statute. An officer may be discharged for cause,
but he is guaranteed an opportunity to reclaim his property
interest in employment on appeal after a trial. However, the
statute is clear that a property interest is lost at the first junc‐
The Officers argue that because the term “permanently
discharged” is not mentioned in the statue until § 62.50(17),
this indicates the police chief cannot “permanently discharge”
an officer. The Officers’ proposed interpretation of § 62.50 is
analogous to the structure of a report and recommendation
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), where a magis‐
trate judge’s findings and recommendations take no effect un‐
til, and unless, signed by a district court judge. Here, the Of‐
ficers suggest that discharge by the chief cannot take effect
until, and unless, affirmed by the Board after a trial. However,
such a structure does not make sense here. Under the Officers’
logic a police officer dismissed by the chief who does not seek
an appeal pursuant to § 62.50(13) could never be “perma‐
nently discharged” and would remain employed indefi‐
Reading the statute to avoid such an absurd result, the
term “permanent” in § 62.50(17) must be read as identifying
that a discharged officer has no further recourse after a dis‐
charge is sustained by the Board, not as a term distinguishing
between the type of discharge effectuated by the chief and
Further, as correctly identified by the district court, the
same subsection that uses the term “permanently discharged”
also provides that if a Board does not sustain a dismissal or
suspension, an officer is to be “reinstated” to his or her “for‐
mer” position. Wis. Stat. § 62.50(17). These words clash with
the Officers’ interpretation of § 62.50, because if a discharge
by the chief were merely a recommendation, there would be
no need to reinstate an officer and there would be no former
position. Applying the language of the statute to the facts pled
by the Officers, all three were denied reinstatement on appeal.
Because they were not reinstated, their former positions con‐
cluded on the date that they were discharged by the chief.
The Officers contend, in a footnote, that because § 62.50(13) only allows
for an appeal within 10 days of the chief’s discharge, a discharge would
become permanent should an officer fail to appeal within 10 days, thus
avoiding any absurd results. This is not persuasive, as under the Officers’
proposed scheme, an officer rightly discharged for cause by the chief,
could potentially earn years of additional wages and benefits simply by
filing a frivolous appeal. This would be an absurd result.
Crucial to our analysis, as it was to the district court below,
is § 62.50(18). This subsection, titled “Salary during suspen‐
No member of the police force may be sus‐
pended under sub. (11) or (13) without pay or
benefits until the matter that is the subject of the
suspension is disposed of by the board or the
time for appeal under sub. (13) passes without
an appeal being made.
The Officers’ complaint, which is the subject of the Rule
12(c) order on appeal, relied explicitly on § 62.50(18). The Of‐
ficers alleged repeatedly that their property right to “pay and
benefits” arose under § 62.50(18). However, on appeal the Of‐
ficers did not mention this subsection in their brief, and at oral
argument, they disavowed it. The Officers have rightly aban‐
doned their argument that § 62.50(18) creates a property right
for them. The plain text of § 62.50(18) directs payment of sal‐
ary or wages only to officers who have been suspended, not
discharged. This is significant, as it is the only subsection in
§ 62.50 that discusses suspension and excludes any mention
of discharge. Wis. Stat. § 62.50(18). We trust that this omission
was purposeful. The unambiguous language of the statute
provides that “salary or wages for the period of time … pre‐
ceding an investigation or trial” are owed only to suspended
officers, not those discharged and the Officers here were dis‐
The Officers’ proposed interpretation would render
§ 62.50(18) superfluous. If the statute necessarily provided of‐
ficers with a property interest in employment and pay after
discharge or suspension by the chief, § 62.50(18) would be un‐
necessary. We avoid interpretations that render provisions
superfluous. River Rd. Hotel Partners, LLC v. Amalgamated
Bank, 651 F.3d 642, 651 (7th Cir. 2011), affʹd sub nom. RadLAX
Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank, 566 U.S. 639 (2012).
Therefore, we find that § 62.50(18) does, in fact, create a prop‐
erty interest for suspended officers following suspension.
However, the statute does not create any similar interest for
The legislative history behind § 62.50(18) is compelling.
The plain text of the statute makes clear that discharged offic‐
ers do not have a property interest in employment, but if there
was any ambiguity in the statute itself, the legislative history
of § 62.50(18) undeniably confirms the Officers lack of a prop‐
erty interest. Before 2008, Wisconsin Statute § 62.50(18) ex‐
pressly stated that discharged as well as suspended officers
were to receive pay “until the matter that is the subject of the
suspension or discharge is disposed of by the board … .”
However, legislative efforts began in the 2007‐2008 legislative
session to curtail this entitlement to discharged officers, and
discharged officers were removed from the scope of
§ 62.50(18) by the enactment of 2007 Senate Bill 176. The
state’s Legislative Reference Bureau in its analysis of the bill,
explicitly noted: “This bill removes the current law provisions
relating to the payment of the salary of first class city police
officers who are discharged.”
The original version of SB 176, adopted in 2008, curtailed
entitlement to pay and benefits for discharged officers before
appeal only where the officer was charged with criminal con‐
duct. However, the legislature again revisited the statute in
2009 and amended it to strike out any mention of discharged
officers. This amendment, which was effective before any of
the Officers were discharged, makes the legislature’s intent to
revoke the Officers’ property interest undeniable. We follow
the direction of the legislator’s clear intent and find nothing
in Wisconsin law creates a property interest in employment
for discharged officers. Without any property interest in their
employment, the Officers’ procedural due process claim must
C. State Wage Claim not Viable
Finding that the Officers were not employees of the Mil‐
waukee Police Department after they were discharged by
Chief Flynn, they are owed no wages pursuant to Wis. Stat.
We AFFIRM the district court’s judgment.
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