Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform BD

Citation233 F.3d 524
Decision Date15 November 2000
Docket NumberNo. 99-3803,99-3803
Parties(7th Cir. 2000) Lionel Bordelon, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, Defendant-Appellee
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 1932--Robert W. Gettleman, Judge. [Copyrighted Material Omitted] Before Rovner, Diane P. Wood, and Williams, Circuit Judges.

Williams, Circuit Judge.

Lionel Bordelon is employed by the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees ("the Board") as principal of Kozminski Community Academy, a Chicago public school. This lawsuit arises from his involuntary transfer to administrative duties at the Board's Department of Schools and Regions. He sued the Board under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, seeking an injunction and damages for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The district court granted Bordelon's request for a preliminary injunction, but granted summary judgment to the Board on Bordelon's claim for damages. Bordelon appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Board. We affirm.

I

Bordelon entered into a contract with Kozminski Local School Council ("Local School Council"), as agent for the Board, to serve as principal of Kozminski Community Academy for a four-year term beginning July 1, 1995. Under the contract, Bordelon could be terminated only for cause (and other reasons not relevant here), and then only after being afforded the notice and hearing procedures prescribed by the Illinois School Code. See 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/34-85. During the second year of his contract, the Local School Council charged Bordelon with various misdeeds, including violations of state and federal law, and recommended that the Board revoke his contract. After a lengthy investigation, the Board's chief executive officer, Paul Vallas, determined that many of the Local School Council's charges against Bordelon were unfounded, and concluded that those charges that were founded were insufficient to warrant Bordelon's removal as principal of Kozminski.

However, this did not end the matter. In March 1997, Bordelon was "temporarily" reassigned to administrative duties at the Board's Office of Schools and Regions (the "Central Office"). This transfer was accomplished without a hearing, pursuant to a Board rule that purportedly allows reassignment of principals if the Superintendent of Schools determines that it is in the best interest of the Chicago Public Schools. While assigned to the Central Office, Bordelon received the same pay and benefits he received as principal of Kozminski.

A year later, still assigned to the Central Office and unable to obtain information from the Board about the nature of the charges against him or any indication of when he would be returned to Kozminski, Bordelon filed suit against the Board for injunctive relief and damages. Bordelon claimed that the Board deprived him, without due process, of liberty and property interests when it transferred him to the Central Office. Bordelon claimed that he was damaged both by the transfer itself, and by Board statements to the media at the time of his transfer that indicated that he was still under investigation, when apparently, he was not.1

In June 1998, the district court held that Bordelon was entitled to a preliminary injunction based on his claim that his transfer to the Central Office deprived him, without due process, of his property interest in his position as principal, and ordered Bordelon's reinstatement as principal of Kozminski. Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 8 F. Supp. 2d 779 (N.D. Ill. 1998).2 In January 1999, the Local School Council renewed Bordelon's contract for an additional term.

After discovery, the Board moved for summary judgment, arguing that Bordelon could not establish any tangible loss of income, benefits, or employment opportunities as a result of the Board's conduct. The Board also moved to strike the statement filed by Bordelon pursuant to Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 12(N) in opposition to the Board's summary judgment motion. The district court granted the Board's motion to strike Bordelon's statement and also its motion for summary judgment. Bordelon then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), which the court denied.

On appeal, Bordelon asserts that the district court erred: (1) in striking his Local Rule 12(N) statement opposing summary judgment; (2) in denying his Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the judgment; and (3) in granting the Board's motion for summary judgment on the merits of his sec. 1983 due process claim. We address each of these claims in turn.

II
A. Plaintiff's Rule 12(N) Statement

The Local Rules of the Northern District of Illinois impose certain requirements for supporting and opposing motions for summary judgment. In particular, the moving party is required to support its summary judgment motion with "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law." N.D. Ill. Local Rule 12(M)(3).3 The opposing party must submit a statement responding to each numbered paragraph of the movant's statement, supporting any disagreement with "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." N.D. Ill. Local Rule 12(N)(3)(a). Unless controverted in this manner in the opponent's 12(N) statement, all material facts set forth in the movant's statement are deemed admitted. N.D. Ill. Local Rule 12(N)(3)(b).

We have noted before the important function served by local rules that structure the summary judgment process, like Local Rules 12(M) and (N) in the Northern District of Illinois. See Markham v. White, 172 F.3d 486, 490 (7th Cir. 1999). These rules "assist the court by organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side proposed to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Id. Given their importance, we have consistently and repeatedly upheld a district court's discretion to require strict compliance with its local rules governing summary judgment. Midwest Imps., Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1995); Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases).

The district court found that Bordelon's 12(N) statement contained evasive and contradictory answers and legal argument, and struck the statement in its entirety. As a consequence, the court accepted the material facts in the Board's statement as true, as it was entitled to do under Local Rule 12(N)(3). We review the district court's rulings on Rule 12(N) statements for an abuse of discretion. Day v. N. Ind. Pub. Serv. Corp., 164 F.3d 382, 384 (7th Cir. 1999); Feliberty v. Kemper Corp., 98 F.3d 274, 278 (7th Cir. 1996). An examination of Bordelon's 12(N) statement convinces us that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking it. The statement is so full of argument, evasion, and improper denials that it defeats the whole point of Local Rule 12(N)--to identify just what facts are actually in dispute.

One example singled out by the district court is typical of Bordelon's statement. In response to the Board's assertion that "Bordelon was assigned to administrative duties in the Office of Schools and Regions from March 11, 1997, to June 22, 1998," Bordelon replied

Denied. This Honorable Court has already held that "Nothing in Section 1023.8(b) [of the Illinois Schools Code] gives defendant the right to transfer plaintiff to a "paper shuffler" position in the Central Office. Judge Ashman held, and this court agreed, that the two positions are not similar for purposes of the act." As Miguel Rodriguez stated at his deposition, Mr. Bordelon's "office" at Camp Beverly, was in an "old warehouse" "in open space" with one large room with dividers and Mr. Bordelon's "space" was "on the way to the men's bathroom." (M. Rodriguez Dep. pp. 16, 55.) Plaintiff had no "duties" and was not evaluated. (Vallas Dep. p. 53)

While this response appears to take issue with the Board's reference to "administrative duties," Bordelon was required at the very least to respond to the Board's assertion that he was reassigned to the Central Office during the identified period. And because he admitted as much in his deposition, he was not entitled to deny this fact in his 12(N) statement. Indeed, as the district court noted, Bordelon's assignment to the Central Office is at the heart of his entire claim. This pattern of evasive denials along with improper argument is repeated throughout his statement.

In defense of his 12(N) statement, Bordelon first argues that his responses were technically in compliance with Rule 12(N) because he did either admit or deny each of the Board's assertions and provided citations to the record. However, Rule 12(N) is not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted. It is also not satisfied by citations to the record that support legal argument rather than controvert material facts. In other words, for a 12(N) statement to be useful, denials must be made only if the material fact asserted is actually in dispute. And if a material fact is not disputed (or if there is no evidence that controverts the fact), the district court is entitled to know that up front, without first having to examine citations to evidence having only marginal bearing on the question.4 Therefore, we agree with the district court that Bordelon's statement was not in compliance with Rule 12(N).

Bordelon next claims that the penalty imposed by the district court, striking the entire statement, was too harsh, and that the court should instead have stricken only the offending material. We think,...

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