175 F.3d 89 (1st Cir. 1999), 98-1318, Campos-Orrego v. Rivera

Docket Nº:98-1318.
Citation:175 F.3d 89
Party Name:Nora CAMPOS-ORREGO, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. Alba RIVERA, et al., Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:May 04, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 89

175 F.3d 89 (1st Cir. 1999)

Nora CAMPOS-ORREGO, Plaintiff, Appellee,


Alba RIVERA, et al., Defendants, Appellants.

No. 98-1318.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 4, 1999

Heard March 2, 1999.

Page 90

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 91

Sylvia Roger Stefani, Assistant Solicitor General, Puerto Rico Dep't of Justice, with whom Carlos Lugo Fiol, Solicitor General, and Edda Serrano Blasini, Deputy Solicitor General, were on brief, for appellants.

Judith Berkan, with whom Mary Jo Mendez-Vilella was on brief, for appellee.

Before SELYA, Circuit Judge, COFFIN and CYR, Senior Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us, inter alia, to address an important question as to the circumstances in which an award of punitive damages for a constitutional tort may endure without a corresponding award of compensatory damages.

The underlying litigation had its genesis in the employment of plaintiff-appellee Nora Campos-Orrego (Campos) with the Puerto Rico Comision para los Asuntos de la Mujer (Women's Rights Commission or Commission). Campos claims that defendants-appellants Alba Rivera, Olga Birriel Cardona, and Enid Gavilan Perez, her superiors at the Commission, retaliated against her for attempting to assist a victim of sexual harassment. A jury determined that Campos's claim had merit and awarded her damages. The appellants solicit our intervention, but their lackadaisical approach to appellate advocacy proves once again that "courts--like the Deity--are more prone to help those who help themselves." Williams v. Drake, 146 F.3d

Page 92

44, 50 (1st Cir.1998). The short of it is that the appellants have squandered most of their assigned errors through defaults of various kinds. Hence, we limit our substantive review to the few remaining grounds (one of which involves the punitive damages issue mentioned above).

In the ordinary case, we would begin by limning the relevant factual background. Here, however, for reasons that will soon become apparent, we submit only a thumbnail sketch, drawn primarily from Campos's complaint.

Campos worked for the Women's Rights Commission for several years, principally as a staff attorney. In that capacity, she often counseled victims of gender-based discrimination. One such individual, whom we shall call Client A, met with Campos in 1991 and related a tale of sexual harassment at the hands of the Mayor of Bayamon, a high-level figure in the New Progressive Party (the political party to which the appellants all belong). Campos counseled Client A and explained her legal options, but Client A chose not to pursue her rights at that time.

In August 1994, after a brief interval during which she worked elsewhere, Campos was rehired by the Women's Rights Commission as a quondam consultant under a one-year contract. In this post, she not only functioned as a staff attorney, but also analyzed sexual harassment in Puerto Rico's public institutions. In November of 1994, Client A returned to the Commission's offices and requested a copy of her file. Campos supplied it. Client A proceeded to lodge a sexual harassment complaint against the Mayor on or about June 1, 1995.

The media pounced on Client A's story like a pride of hungry lions on a side of beef. Extensive coverage began as early as June 2. The three appellants summoned Campos to a meeting that very day and interrogated her as to why she had given Client A a copy of the file. According to Campos, the appellants intimated that the matter should have been treated with greater discretion because it involved the Mayor. On June 3, two of the appellants discussed the incident on a popular radio show and implied that an unnamed employee (who could not have been anyone but Campos) was incompetent, or insubordinate, or both. By letter dated June 6, Rivera (the Commission's executive director) terminated Campos's employment effective June 30--and did so notwithstanding that, roughly a week before the story broke, Campos had accepted Rivera's offer to renew her contract for another year, commencing July 1, 1995. The next day, El D¡a, a major Spanish-language newspaper, published an article in which Rivera attributed the Commission's lack of action on Client A's complaint to Campos. The newspaper also reported that Campos would be terminated. Campos claims that the appellants posted the story in public view in the Commission's offices.

Campos brought suit against the three appellants in Puerto Rico's federal district court, 1 claiming that they had cashiered her because she appropriately aided Client A, rather than discouraging or attempting to derail Client A's embryonic sexual harassment complaint against a political heavyweight. Campos argued that her termination violated P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 155h (1995) (Law 17), which safeguards individuals against retaliation for affording assistance to persons who seek to mount sexual harassment claims. She likewise argued that the manner in which Rivera fired her abridged her right to procedural due process. 2

Page 93

The appellants denied Campos's allegations and the matter was tried to a jury over a period of 12 days. The docket indicates that, at the close of Campos's case in chief and again at the close of all the evidence, the appellants moved for judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50. In respect to the two causes of action with which we are concerned, they claim to have asserted that Campos lacked standing to charge retaliation under Law 17 and that she had no property interest sufficient to support her procedural due process claim. In any event, the district court denied the appellants' motions on both occasions. Insofar as is material here, the jury returned a general verdict in Campos's favor, awarding her $80,000 in compensatory damages against the appellants, jointly and severally, on the Law 17 count and $10,000 in punitive damages against Rivera on the due process count.

Campos promptly moved for the entry of a judgment embodying the jury's award but augmenting it by (1) doubling the compensatory damages on the Law 17 claim, 3 (2) ordering reinstatement, and (3) deducting $1 from the punitive damage award and reallocating it as nominal damages on the due process claim (or, in the alternative, merely reaffirming the punitive damage award). The appellants opposed this motion. They contended that Campos was not entitled to statutory doubling because the jury had not been instructed on this potentiality, that reinstatement should be denied (or, at least, not ordered without an evidentiary hearing), and that the punitive damage award should be vacated due to the lack of any supporting compensatory damages. In respect to the Law 17 claim, the district court doubled the compensatory damages (to $160,000), eschewed an evidentiary hearing, and ordered Campos's reinstatement. In respect to the due process claim, the court recast $1 from the punitive damage award as nominal damages, thus keeping the aggregate amount intact but reducing punitives to $9,999. The appellants then renewed their motion for judgment as a matter of law, but to no avail. This appeal followed.

It is the nature of the adjudicative process that appellate courts apply discerned principles of law to facts established in a trial court or an administrative tribunal. Parties seeking appellate review must furnish the court with the raw materials necessary to the due performance of the appellate task. See Moore v. Murphy, 47 F.3d 8, 10 (1st Cir.1995). Applicable procedural rules recognize this division of labor and place the burden squarely on the appealing party to supply so much of the record of the proceedings below as is necessary to enable the appellate court to conduct informed review. See Fed. R.App. P. 10(b); see also Jardines Bacata, Ltd. v. Diaz-Marquez, 878 F.2d 1555, 1559 n. 5 (1st Cir.1989); Real v. Hogan, 828 F.2d 58, 60 (1st Cir.1987). When an appellant shirks this responsibility, the law exacts a...

To continue reading