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Durnan v. State

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 24, 2017

ROBERT F. DURNAN, GERALD R. CHRISTIAN, and MARK C.FORBES Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE; DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; JOSEPH R. BIDEN, III, in his individual capacity; and TIMOTHY MULLANEY, in his individual capacity Defendants.

          G. Kevin Fasic, Katherine Randolph Witherspoon, Cooch and Taylor, P.A., Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

          Kevin R. Slattery, Oliver J. Cleary, Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK; U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiffs Robert F. Durnan ("Durnan"), Gerald R. Christian ("Christian"), and Mark C. Forbes ("Forbes" and, collectively, with Durnan and Christian, "Plaintiffs") filed suit against Defendants the State of Delaware; the Delaware Department of Justice ("DDOJ"), Joseph R. Biden, III ("Biden"), and Timothy Mullaney, in his individual capacity ("Mullaney" and, collectively, with the State of Delaware, DDOJ, and Biden, "Defendants") on April 15, 2014. (D.I. 1) On June 17, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint ("Amended Complaint"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and procedural due process. (D.L 6)

         Pending before the Court are Defendant DDOJ's motion for summary judgment (D.L 67) and Defendant Mullaney's motion for summary judgment (D.L 70) ("Motions"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant both Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs were appointed as State Detectives and were employees of Defendant DDOJ's extradition unit from the late 1990s until November 2013. (See D.L 6 ¶¶ 10, 16; D.L 82 at 2) Defendant DDOJ "is an agency of the State of Delaware under the supervision, direction, and control of the Attorney General, " and Defendants Biden[1] and Mullaney were the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, respectively, during all events that gave rise to the instant litigation. (D.L 68 at 2)

         As State Detectives, Plaintiffs were primarily responsible for "transport[ing] fugitive criminal defendants from various locations throughout the United States back to Delaware." (Id.) As such, Plaintiffs' job duties "required ... Plaintiffs to accrue overtime hours due to the travel involved and overnight stays in various locations." (Id.; see also D.I. 6 ¶ 18) Pursuant to the DDOJ's Policy Manual, and in particular Policy 3.6, DDOJ was required to compensate "overtime hours worked in excess of 37.5 hours per week ... at a rate of 1.5 compensatory hours per overtime hour." (D.I. 68 at 2-3) Moreover, pursuant to the FLSA, members of law enforcement - including Plaintiffs - "may accrue up to a total of 480 hours of compensatory time before overtime hours must be paid." (Id. at 3; see also D.I. 82 at 2) DDOJ has "acknowledged its responsibility to pay [State Detectives] compensatory time up to a cap of 480 accrued hours, " in accordance with the FLSA and "the Agreement [("CBA")] between [DDOJ] and the Delaware Attorney General's Investigators Association[, ] of which Plaintiffs are members." (D.I. 6 ¶ 20)

         Plaintiffs' claims arise out of DDOJ's compensation and overtime policies. Specifically,, Plaintiffs allege that they "did not receive any overtime compensation for their work as State Detectives" from November 1, 2010 through November 1, 2013.[2] (Id. ¶ 25; see alsoTtl. 68 at 3) Plaintiffs "further allege [that] they were retaliated against by .. . DDOJ when they informed ... Mullaney of their intent to initiate the present civil action in November.. .2013" (D.I. 68 at 3), because Biden and Mullaney "either reassigned [Plaintiffs to a different unit] or had their duties restricted inasmuch as each ... Plaintiff[] was unable to work in excess of 37.5 hours per week." (D.I. 6 ¶ 28) ("Plaintiffs Durnan and Forbes were reassigned to duties of special investigators, while Plaintiff Christian continued, in a limited capacity, his duties as State Detective but was instructed that he could [neither] fly nor travel overnight and was not permitted to work in excess of 37.5 hours per week.") Finally, Plaintiffs allege that approximately within a year of being reassigned or having their duties restricted, Plaintiffs were either forced to retire or were terminated from their positions at DDOJ. (See D.L 82 at 4)

         Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint on June 17, 2014, alleging the following claims: a violation of the overtime provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(2) (Count I); a violation of the all hours worked provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 215(a)(2) (Count II); a violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (Count III); and a violation of Procedural Due Process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV). (See D.I. 6 ¶¶ 41, 44, 50, 55) Defendants DDOJ and Mullaney filed their Motions on October 17, 2016. (See D.L 67, 70) The parties completed briefing on DDOJ's and Mullaney's Motions on November 14, 2016 (see D.L 68, 81, 84) and November 15, 2016 (see D.L 72, 82, 86), respectively. The Court heard oral argument on both Motions on February 17, 2017. ("Tr.") The final pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 31, 2017 and a jury trial is scheduled to begin on April 10, 2017.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986). An assertion that a fact cannot be - or, alternatively, is - genuinely disputed must be supported either by citing to "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court will "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue") (internal quotation marks omitted). The "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment;" a factual dispute is genuine only where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (stating entry of summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial"). Thus, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of the nonmoving party's position is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment; there must be "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find" for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants DDOJ and Mullaney each seek summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims and have filed separate motions for summary judgment. (See D.I. 67, 70) The Court addresses each Motion in turn.

         A. DDOJ's Motion for Summary Judgment

         1. Eleventh Amendment Bars on Suit for Money Damages Against the State of Delaware and DDOJ

         DDOJ seeks summary judgment that "Plaintiff[s'] suit against the State of Delaware and the DDOJ seeking monetary damages is barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution."[3] (D.I. 68 at 10)

         In relevant part, the Eleventh Amendment provides that "[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const, amend. XI. "While the [Eleventh] Amendment by its terms does not bar suits against a State by its own citizens, [the Supreme Court] has consistently held that a[] .. . State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens." Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974); see also Christ the King Manor, Inc. v. Sec'y U.S. Dep'tHealth & Human Servs., 730 F.3d 291, 318 (3d Cir. 2013) (same).

         "Eleventh Amendment immunity is subject to three exceptions: 1) congressional abrogation, 2) state waiver [or consent], and 3) suits against individual state officers for prospective relief to end an ongoing violation of federal law." MCI Telecomm. Corp. v. BellAtl. Pa.,271 F.3d 491, 503 (3d Cir. 2001). To abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity, Congress must "mak[e] its intention unmistakably clear in the language of the statute, " Dellmuth v. Muth,491 U.S. 223, 228 (1989) (internal quotation marks omitted), and must also "act[] pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority, " Bd. of Trs. v. Garrett,531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). "If a statute has been passed pursuant to congressional power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce the provisions of that amendment, Congress can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity." MCI Telecomm., 271 F.3d at 503; see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996) ("We [have] held that... ยง 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment allow[s] Congress to abrogate the immunity from suit guaranteed by th[e] [Eleventh] Amendment."). However, "Congress may not... abrogate state sovereign immunity when a statute is ...


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