447 F.Supp. 775 (S.D.Ill. 1978), A-Civ-78-5010, Vincent v. Maeras

Docket Nº:A-Civ-78-5010.
Citation:447 F.Supp. 775
Party Name:Michael VINCENT, Plaintiff, v. John MAERAS, Defendant.
Case Date:March 09, 1978
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Southern District of Illinois
 
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Page 775

447 F.Supp. 775 (S.D.Ill. 1978)

Michael VINCENT, Plaintiff,

v.

John MAERAS, Defendant.

No. A-Civ-78-5010.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois, Southern Division.

March 9, 1978

Page 776

Jack A. Strellis, Belleville, Ill., for plaintiff.

Donald L. Smith, Asst. State's Atty., Edwardsville, Ill., for defendant.

J. WALDO ACKERMAN, District Judge.

Before me is plaintiff's petition for a preliminary injunction and defendant's motion to dismiss. After hearing oral argument and the evidence presented by both sides, and considering memorandums of law by the parties, I have reached the following conclusions.

FACTS

For purposes of the present motions there does not appear to be a significant dispute as to the facts. Plaintiff is a communication technician in the Madison County Sheriff's Department. In that position the plaintiff was not entitled to any contractual or statutory rights of employment and he could be terminated at will by the Sheriff. In November of 1977, plaintiff met with the defendant, who is the present Sheriff of Madison County, and declared his intention of seeking the Democratic nomination for Sheriff in the upcoming primary election. The substance of the conversation is not clearly established but plaintiff interpreted it as an assurance that no repercussions would evolve from his candidacy. It was brought out that there was no mention of a leave of absence requirement at that meeting and plaintiff testified that if he had known of the policy he could not have afforded to take the leave and therefore would not have filed his name as a candidate.

On November 18, 1977, the plaintiff announced through the media that he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Sheriff. On December 12 he filed a nominating petition with the County Clerk. The last formal day to withdraw was December 24, 1977. On January 3, 1978, the plaintiff informed defendant by letter that he must request a leave of absence from his employment during his candidacy. The explanation was that since the Merit Rules required Deputy Sheriffs to take a leave during their candidacy, that policy should be applied to all employees in the Sheriff's Department, even those like plaintiff not under the Merit Rules. The reason for the policy was to "preserve the integrity of the Sheriff's Department and remain fair to all employees."

Plaintiff refused to request the leave of absence, although a Deputy Sheriff also seeking the Sheriff's Office did take a leave. On January 3, 1978, the plaintiff was informed by letter that his employment was terminated.

ISSUE

The issue is whether the Sheriff's decision to require this non-merit employee under these circumstances to take a leave of absence when seeking public office is an impermissible infringement of the employee's constitutional rights?

ANALYSIS

The instant case is different factually from any discovered in the reporters. In my opinion the proper analysis is to (1) determine the nature of the constitutional right allegedly infringed and the extent of

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infringement; (2) determine whether the right is one deemed fundamental so as to require the state to show a compelling rather than merely a legitimate, state interest to override it; and (3) determine whether the State's interest is sufficient to justify the extent of constitutional infringement present.

I. NATURE AND EXTENT OF CONSTITUTIONAL INFRINGEMENT

Plaintiff alleges that he has been punished for exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and political association. Plaintiff has continued to seek the office of Sheriff and his First Amendment rights have not apparently been diminished. At the point when the plaintiff was demanded to take a leave of absence...

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