Butler v. Louisiana

Decision Date03 December 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO.: 12-00420-BAJ-RLB
PartiesSCOTT J. BUTLER v. STATE OF LOUISIANA, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS, ET AL.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER

Before the Court are Plaintiff's MOTIONS FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 52, Doc. 65) filed by Scott J. Butler, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, seeking summary judgment on his claims (1) that the termination of his employment was an absolute nullity under Louisiana Law; and (2) that after the initiation of this lawsuit, while he was still employed as a state trooper, Defendants ordered him to submit to a psychological examination that was neither job-related, nor consistent with business necessity. (Doc. 52-1 at p. 5; Doc. 65-1 at p. 5). The State of Louisiana, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Louisiana State Police and Captain Tom Madden, (collectively, "Defendants") oppose the motions. (Doc. 80, Doc. 88). Plaintiff filed a reply memorandum in response to one of Defendants' two memoranda in opposition. (Doc. 81).

Also before the Court is Defendants' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 67), seeking an order from this Court dismissing Plaintiff'sclaims against them, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff opposes the motion.1 (Doc. 87). Defendants filed a reply memorandum in response to Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition. (Doc. 94).

Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

I. Background2

Scott Butler ("Plaintiff") was employed as a Louisiana State Trooper by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety ("DPS"), Louisiana State Police ("LSP") from September 9, 2000, to April 3, 2013. (Doc. 65-7 at ¶ 1; Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 1). Plaintiff worked in the following divisions during his tenure with LSP: the Gaming Division from 2005 to 2010, the Intelligence Division from July 2010 to November 2010, and as a Road Trooper with Troop G from 2010 to 2013. (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 2). On or about October 7, 2010, Plaintiff's supervisor, Sergeant Jason Turner recommended placing Plaintiff in a Field Training Program for Intelligence. (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff then requested to transfer out of Intelligence and back to road patrol at LSP Troop G in Bossier. (Id.). Plaintiff's request was granted, and his transfer to Troop G became effective November 1, 2010. (Id. at ¶ 5).

The primary purpose of a state trooper assigned to the patrol division is "to provide highway traffic services by enforcement of criminal and traffic laws in order to protect life and property." (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 2). Initially, in accordance with standard procedures, Plaintiff was assigned to a series of ride-alongs with other troopers "to acclimate him to new procedures and technology."3 (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 5). The troopers from Teams C and Team E participating in the ride-alongs maintained logs, which documented Plaintiff's performance. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). The nature and content of these evaluations is disputed. However, Plaintiff's official performance evaluations through August 2012 always reflected that he was performing his duties satisfactorily. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 1).

On January 26, 2011, after reviewing the performance logs from Intelligence and the ride-along reports from Teams C and E, Captain Madden recommended Plaintiff participate in a psychological fitness for duty examination ("FFDE"). (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 8).

Pursuant to DPS protocol, the Internal Affairs Division ("Internal Affairs") compiles the information that is ultimately submitted in conjunction with a FFDE referral. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶¶ 18, 19; Doc. 80-1 at ¶ 18). Internal Affairs handles specialized administrative investigations as warranted and delegated to it by the Colonel and/or the Chief of Staff of LSP. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 15). DPS contracts with a third party, Matrix, Inc. ("Matrix"), to conduct psychological FFDEs for LSP. (Id. at ¶ 17; Doc. 80-1 at ¶ 17). The FFDEs are administered by licensed psychologistswith special training and experience in police psychology. (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 9). Internal Affairs then maintains a case file for each FFDE that is requested. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 16). The documents sent to Matrix are kept under the employee's name in a secure location in Internal Affairs, but separate from other records. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 20).

Here, pursuant to DPS protocol, the job performance documentation was first submitted to Captain William Davis, Commander of DPS Internal Affairs Division. (Id.). Then, Captain Davis sent the documentation to Matrix for a pre-fitness review, whereupon Matrix psychologist, Dr. Cary Rostow ("Dr. Rostow") reviewed it, and determined that a FFDE should be conducted. (Id. at ¶ 10). The depth of Dr. Rostow's pre-examination review of the documentation submitted to Matrix is disputed.

On February 8, 2011, Plaintiff appeared for his first FFDE at Matrix in Baton Rouge as ordered. (Id. at ¶ 11). During the examination, Butler submitted a February 1, 2011 letter from Theresa Stewart, ("Nurse Stewart") a certified psychiatric clinical nurse specialist with LSU Health Sciences, and Dr. James Patterson, Nurse Stewart's supervising psychiatrist. (Id.). The letter stated that Plaintiff was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ("OCD") in November 2010, and had been under treatment for the condition. (Id.). The letter also stated that by January 7, 2011, "all of [Plaintiff's] compulsive behavior and obsessive thoughts had stopped" and that Plaintiff "was no longer depressed or showing symptoms of anxiety or depression." (Doc. 67-17). In Nurse Stewart and Dr.Patterson's opinion, Plaintiff was "fit for duty." (Id. at p. 2). However, after conducting his own evaluation, Dr. Rostow found Plaintiff unfit for duty. (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 12). The thoroughness of Dr. Rostow's examination and the appropriateness of the types of assessments used are disputed.

Based on Dr. Rostow's opinion, Plaintiff was relieved of duty on February 9, 2011. (Id. at ¶ 13). The following day, Plaintiff submitted a report from Dr. Patterson, the same psychiatrist who signed the February 1, 2011 letter, which stated that although Plaintiff was still suffering from OCD, his condition was neither severe, nor "bothersome in nature." (Id. at ¶ 14; Doc. 65-7 at ¶ 4). The parties disagree on the validity of Dr. Patterson's assessment of Plaintiff's fitness for duty. Nevertheless, Plaintiff returned to work at Team C on March 7, 2011. (Doc. 87-9 at ¶ 15). DPS continued to have Plaintiff participate in ride-alongs with other experienced troopers as he had before the FFDE was conducted and his leave of absence commenced. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff's attorney later objected to the ride-alongs, and DPS acquiesced. (Id.). Plaintiff was permitted to ride alone effective March 26, 2012. (Id.).

In the interim, Plaintiff filed a complaint of disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Doc. 65-7 at ¶ 5). Plaintiff then filed the instant lawsuit against DPS, LSP, and his supervisor, Captain Tom Madden, in June of 2012.4 (Id. at ¶ 6). During discovery, Defendants sought a court ordercompelling Plaintiff to produce his psychiatric treatment records. (Id. at ¶ 7). Defendants claimed Plaintiff's psychiatric records would provide proof that "Butler, in fact, suffered from a psychiatric condition" as well as prove "the extent of his psychiatric condition." (Id. at ¶ 8). That same November 11, 2012 Motion to Compel (Doc. 11) was still pending on January 23, 2013, the date on which Defendants ordered Plaintiff to submit to a second FFDE.5 (Doc. 65-7 at ¶ 9).

On December 18, 2012,6 pursuant to LSP Policy, Plaintiff filed a personnel grievance against the supervisor of Team D, Lieutenant Kevin Baxer ("Lt. Baxter"). (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 3). Plaintiff alleged that Lt. Baxter threw a crash report at him during a December 9, 2012 meeting and that Lt. Baxter's recommended edits to reports Plaintiff wrote would have undermined the integrity of the reports. (Doc. 87-9 at p. 17). Plaintiff's next-in-line supervisor, Major Joel Kilpatrick ("Major Kilpatrick") then met with Plaintiff on January 2, 2013, to conduct a grievance review. (Id. at ¶ 18). The substance of their conversation during this meeting is disputed.

On January 11, 2013, Major Kilpatrick wrote Lieutenant Colonel David Staton to advise that based upon his observations of Plaintiff, that Plaintiff was either "unable or unwilling" to perform his job duties. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 5). MajorKilpatrick's motivations for making this statement are disputed. (Id.; Doc. 80-1 at ¶ 5). In his letter, Major Kilpatrick also recommended that Plaintiff be sent for a second psychological FFDE "for determining [the] Department's most appropriate course of future action." (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff was not provided a copy of the letter, nor given an opportunity to read it. (Id. at ¶ 7). Defendants dispute that Plaintiff was entitled to read the letter. (Doc. 80-1 at ¶ 7). Major Kilpatrick had no interaction with Plaintiff after the January 2, 2013 meeting. (Doc. 52-16 at ¶ 9).

Between the grievance meeting on January 2, 2013, and the date of Major Kilpatrick's letter, January 11, 2013, no one reported any bizarre, unusual, or illogical behavior by Plaintiff to Major Kilpatrick. (Id. at ¶ 10). Major Kilpatrick did not consider any alternative to a FFDE for Plaintiff, (Id. at ¶ 11), though it is disputed that consideration of alternatives was warranted. (Doc. 80-1 at ¶ 11). Plaintiff was not relieved of duty and continued to perform the normal duties of a state trooper while Major Kilpatrick's FFDE recommendation was pending with Internal Affairs. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13).

On January 23, 2013, Defendants ordered Plaintiff to report to Matrix for a second psychological FFDE. (Id. at ¶ 21).

In advance of Plaintiff's scheduled psychological examination, Defendants once again submitted materials about Plaintiff to Matrix for its psychologist, Dr. Robert Davis' review. (...

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