Laskaris v. Thornburgh, No. 81-1453

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore ALDISERT, HIGGINBOTHAM and SLOVITER; ALDISERT
Citation661 F.2d 23
PartiesPeter J. LASKARIS, Appellant in, v. Richard THORNBURGH, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Thomas Larson, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation, Dennis Hilton and Representative John Peterson. Michael SKAPURA, Appellant in, v. Richard THORNBURGH, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Thomas Larson, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, John Harhigh, Director of Bureau of Personnel, James I. Scheiner, Deputy Secretary for Administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, all in both their official and individual capacities. , 81-2539. . Submitted Under Third Circuit Rule 12(6)
Decision Date24 September 1981
Docket NumberNo. 81-2539,81-2539,No. 81-1453

Page 23

661 F.2d 23
Peter J. LASKARIS, Appellant in No. 81-1453,
v.
Richard THORNBURGH, Governor of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, Thomas Larson, Secretary of the
Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation,
Dennis Hilton and
Representative John
Peterson.
Michael SKAPURA, Appellant in No. 81-2539,
v.
Richard THORNBURGH, Governor of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania, Thomas Larson, Secretary of the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation, John Harhigh, Director of
Bureau of Personnel, James I. Scheiner, Deputy Secretary for
Administration of the Pennsylvania Department of
Transportation, all in both their official and individual capacities.
No. 81-1453, 81-2539.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Submitted Under Third Circuit Rule 12(6) Sept. 24, 1981.
Decided Oct. 5, 1981.

Page 24

Richard T. Ruth, Erie, Pa., for appellants.

Robert H. Raymond, Jr., Asst. Chief Counsel, Carleton O. Strouss, Asst. Counsel, Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, Jay C. Waldman, Gen. Counsel, Dept. of Transp., Com. of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Pa., for appellees Thornburgh, Larson, and Hilton in No. 81-1453.

Norman H. Stark, MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton, Erie, Pa., for appellee Peterson in No. 81-1453.

Alton P. Arnold, Jr., William A. Webb, Deputy Attys. Gen., LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Atty. Gen., Pittsburgh, Pa., Robert H. Raymond, Jr., Asst. Chief Counsel, Pa. Dept. of Transp., Harrisburg, Pa., for appellees in No. 81-2539.

Before ALDISERT, HIGGINBOTHAM and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

The major question for decision in this appeal from the district court's dismissal of appellant's complaint is whether the eleventh amendment bars the district court from granting relief against certain state officials named as defendants. 1 Laskaris, a former Labor Relations Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, filed a complaint in the district court seeking declaratory, injunctive, and punitive relief. Premising his claim on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, he charged that

Page 25

his employment had been terminated by the Republican state administration because he is a Democrat. He alleged that the governor, a cabinet officer, a personnel supervisor, and a state legislator, acting individually and in concert, violated his constitutional rights to political expression and affiliation by discharging him. The district court granted the defendants' motions to dismiss 2 on the ground that the eleventh amendment barred relief against the state officers. The district court also suggested that the precepts set forth in Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 100 S.Ct. 1287, 63 L.Ed.2d 574 (1980), and Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 96 S.Ct. 2673, 49 L.Ed.2d 547 (1976), were not applicable to state employment. 3 We reverse.

I.

We reject the district court's suggestion that the teachings of Branti and Elrod do not apply to state employees. In fashioning the novel doctrine 4 that public employees hired because of their political affiliation cannot be fired for the same reason, the Supreme Court relied primarily on three cases brought by state employees: Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 92 S.Ct. 2694, 33 L.Ed.2d 570 (1972) (state university faculty member); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967) (same); Illinois State Employees Union v. Lewis, 473 F.2d 561 (7th Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 410 U.S. 928, 943, 93 S.Ct. 1364, 1370, 35 L.Ed.2d 590 (1973) (employees of the Illinois Secretary of State). Although both Elrod and Branti were brought against local officials, we find no compelling reason to conclude that the Supreme Court would treat similar claims against state officials differently and therefore we reject the district court's suggestion to the contrary.

II.

We now turn to the eleventh amendment issue. The district court, relying on Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 237-38, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686-87, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974), reasoned that because state officers were the defendants, the complaint was in fact against the state. Thus, the district court concluded that the action was barred by the eleventh amendment. We disagree.

Absent a state's consent, the eleventh amendment bars a civil rights suit in federal court that names the state as a defendant, even a claim seeking injunctive relief. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114 (1978) (per curiam). By statute Pennsylvania has specifically withheld consent:

Federal courts. Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the Commonwealth from suit in Federal...

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378 practice notes
  • Coffin v. South Carolina Dept. of Social Services, Civ. A. No. 82-803-15.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • January 10, 1983
    ...Carolina Department of Corrections, 460 F.Supp. 805 (D.S.C.1978); Gourdine v. Ellis, 435 F.Supp. 882 (D.S.C.1977); Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir.1981); Highfield Water Co. et al. v. Public Service Commission et al., 488 F.Supp. 1176, 1193 (D.Md.1980). Also, the Eleventh Am......
  • Rose v. Adams Cnty., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:CV-14-0420
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • March 11, 2014
    ...withheld its consent to such suits. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 8521(b); see also Lombardo, 540 F.3d at 196 n.3; Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981).See also Urella v. PA State Troopers Ass'n, 2008 WL 1944069, *3.Page 24 Thus, we find that any constitutional claims Plaintiff......
  • Lombardo v. Pennsylvania, Dept. of Public Welfare, No. 06-4628.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 25, 2008
    ...120 S.Ct. 631. 3. Pennsylvania has withheld its consent to suit in federal court. 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 8521(b). See Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d 4. Georgia claimed that it agreed to remove in order to provide its co-defendants, the officials sued in their personal capacities, ......
  • Jelen v. Lackawanna State Prison, NO. 3:18-CV-01726
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • September 26, 2019
    ...suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Foye v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 675 F. App'x 210, 215 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25-26 (3d Cir. 1981); Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S. Ct. 2304, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45 (1989)). The claims against ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
378 cases
  • Coffin v. South Carolina Dept. of Social Services, Civ. A. No. 82-803-15.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • January 10, 1983
    ...Carolina Department of Corrections, 460 F.Supp. 805 (D.S.C.1978); Gourdine v. Ellis, 435 F.Supp. 882 (D.S.C.1977); Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir.1981); Highfield Water Co. et al. v. Public Service Commission et al., 488 F.Supp. 1176, 1193 (D.Md.1980). Also, the Eleventh Am......
  • Rose v. Adams Cnty., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:CV-14-0420
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • March 11, 2014
    ...withheld its consent to such suits. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 8521(b); see also Lombardo, 540 F.3d at 196 n.3; Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981).See also Urella v. PA State Troopers Ass'n, 2008 WL 1944069, *3.Page 24 Thus, we find that any constitutional claims Plaintiff......
  • Lombardo v. Pennsylvania, Dept. of Public Welfare, No. 06-4628.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 25, 2008
    ...120 S.Ct. 631. 3. Pennsylvania has withheld its consent to suit in federal court. 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 8521(b). See Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d 4. Georgia claimed that it agreed to remove in order to provide its co-defendants, the officials sued in their personal capacities, ......
  • Jelen v. Lackawanna State Prison, NO. 3:18-CV-01726
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • September 26, 2019
    ...suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Foye v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 675 F. App'x 210, 215 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25-26 (3d Cir. 1981); Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S. Ct. 2304, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45 (1989)). The claims against ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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