Guarino v. Brookfield Tp. Trustees

Decision Date25 November 1992
Docket NumberNo. 91-3961,91-3961
Citation980 F.2d 399
PartiesDominick GUARINO and Jacquelyn Brown-Guarino, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. BROOKFIELD TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES, individually and in their official capacities; Tom Jones and Kenneth R. Hudak, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

E. Winther McCroom (argued), Breckenridge & McCroom, Youngstown, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

George A. Chuparkoff, Stephen J. Chuparkoff (argued and briefed), Youngstown, Ohio, James J. Misocky, Office of the Pros. Atty., Warren, Ohio, for defendant-appellee.

Before: MARTIN and SILER, Circuit Judges; and CLELAND, District Judge. *

CLELAND, District Judge.

Plaintiffs appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in this civil rights action which challenged plaintiffs' discharge from employment in the Police Department of Brookfield Township, Ohio. When plaintiffs did not respond to the motion, the district court based its review of the facts upon the materials presented and highlighted by the moving party, and concluded that no genuine issues of material fact existed for trial. Defendants thereupon were determined to be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This Court agrees, finding firstly that the trial court correctly limited its review to the facts designated by the moving party, and secondly that it did not err in granting defendants' motion for summary judgment.


In its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the District Court relied upon the factual record presented by the defendants, and concluded that, since plaintiffs did not respond with a different version, the designated facts were uncontroverted. For reasons explained at Discussion, Section I, infra, the same facts are accepted and examined in this Opinion.

Appellants Dominick Guarino and Jacquelyn Brown-Guarino were formerly employed with the Brookfield Township Police Department. Dominick was originally hired as a part-time officer and Jacquelyn, at the time known as Jacquelyn Brown, was employed as a police radio dispatcher. She was married to William Brown, another part-time police officer with the Township. Several events in early 1986 led to Dominick's and Jacquelyn's discharge from employment.

During a time in which the Browns were experiencing marital problems, Jacquelyn and Dominick began an intimate relationship. They each sued for divorce--Jacquelyn filing in February 1986--and they have subsequently married.

On February 18, 1986, Jacquelyn wrote a letter to then-interim Chief of Police, Kenneth Hudak, expressing concern about her employment. She acknowledged that rumors and gossip of her domestic problems and of her relationship with Dominick Guarino were spreading throughout the Department.

On March 4, 1986, William Brown wrote a letter to Chief Hudak and the Brookfield Township trustees. In the letter he complained that Dominick would visit Jacquelyn at the Brown's home while he was away at work, many of these times while Dominick was on duty with the Department. On one occasion, William said, he found Dominick and his wife sitting side by side on a love seat. He confronted them and struck Dominick, but Brown's brother-in-law broke up the ensuing fight. Attached to this letter were two handwritten statements by the Browns' young sons to the effect that Dominick commonly appeared at their home every Wednesday and Thursday after their father had left.

Throughout this time period, the department and the Trustees received numerous other complaints about Dominick meeting Jacquelyn at her house while he was on duty, leaving a marked patrol cruiser parked in the drive. The Trustees and Chief Hudak informed Dominick and Jacquelyn of the complaints against them. William Brown's letter was shown to them and they were asked to respond. On March 8, 1992, Jacquelyn replied in writing to the letter and informed the Chief and the Trustees that she was having domestic problems with her husband and that she had established a personal relationship with Dominick Guarino. She acknowledged that Dominick would meet her at her home while he was on duty. She also described a fight she had with her husband at the police station while she was on duty, and recounted that she had became so upset from the fight that she left duty early and went with Dominick, never to return to her husband. Dominick also responded to the complaints in writing, similarly acknowledging that he went to Jacquelyn's house while he was on duty. He offered in addition an assortment of explanations, which included his need to deliver to Jacquelyn a copy of rules and regulations for a local cemetery.

Thereafter, the Trustees continued to receive complaints about Dominick and Jacquelyn. On several occasions, the Trustees and Chief Hudak informed Dominick and Jacquelyn of the complaints against them and asked them to keep their "personal matters" away from the department. The Chief eventually recommended to the Trustees that Dominick and Jacquelyn be discharged.

Before the Trustees took any action on this recommendation 1, the Department received a telephone call that Jacquelyn had taken her two sons from William Brown's house. By this time, Jacquelyn and William had separated with William having physical custody of the boys. According to the radio log sheets, Jacquelyn picked up her sons to take them to a Dairy Queen. The boys, however, thought that their mother was kidnapping them, and became hysterical. They ran out of her car to the home of a neighbor who telephoned the police. On that same night, William drove to the Brookfield Police Station, complained that Jacquelyn had assaulted him and filed a formal criminal complaint against her.

Dominick and Jacquelyn were suspended until the next Trustee's meeting which was scheduled for May 15, 1986. The Chief notified them of the meeting and advised them to attend. At the May 15th meeting, the Trustees confronted Dominick and Jacquelyn with the complaints against them and accused them of the following improper conduct: 1) fighting while on duty; 2) Dominick visiting Jacquelyn's home while he was on duty; 3) allowing their personal domestic problems to interfere with their work; and 4) making unauthorized long distance phone calls from the police station. Dominick and Jacquelyn were allowed to respond, and did, denying the charges. After considering the matter, the Trustees removed the suspension and placed them on probationary status.

Shortly after this meeting, however, Chief Hudak discovered clear evidence confirming his original impression that Dominick and Jacquelyn had violated department rules by making numerous personal long distance telephone calls from the station without prior approval, and without recording many of the calls on the log sheet. He informed the Trustees of these findings, and they finally discharged Dominick and Jacquelyn at the next meeting on June 16, 1986.


In June, 1987, plaintiffs filed this claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1986, 1987, and 1988 alleging that various of their constitutional rights had been violated in the discharge decision. Specifically, they alleged that defendants violated their right to privacy, their right to freely associate, their right to be protected from deprivation of property without due process of law, and their right to equal protection under the law. They cited the 1st, 5th, 9th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. (JA--8, 11).

Ample time for discovery was allowed by the trial court, and trial had been scheduled to begin in the fall of 1991. On June 21, 1991, defendants moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs did not respond to the motion. Subsequently, on September 10, 1991, the district court determined that various facts presented by defendants were "uncontroverted," and proceeded to examine those facts. In its Opinion, the court viewed the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, but determined that the defendants had met their burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact for trial on every one of the theories advanced by the plaintiffs in their pleadings. With that factual examination and those legal determinations, the court entered judgment for the defense, and this appeal followed.


The circuit court reviews a grant of summary judgment de novo. EEOC v. University of Detroit, 904 F.2d 331, 334 (6th Cir.1990). We use the same test as that used by the district court for determining whether summary judgment should be granted. Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden placed upon the movant for summary judgment is to show that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of his case upon which he would bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In order to preclude the granting of summary judgment, the non-moving party must show that there is doubt as to the material facts and that the record, taken as a whole, does not lead to a judgment for the movant. Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472 (6th Cir.1989). The non-moving party must present affirmative evidence on critical issues sufficient to allow a jury to return a verdict in its favor. Street, at 1476, 1477.


In their brief, the appellants argue that "... the nonmoving party [ ] was under no obligation to present evidence showing the existence of ..." genuine issues of material fact because such issues could be found "inherent in the [ ] docu...

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