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Fileccia v. Caddo Parish School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 24, 2017





         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Caddo Parish School Board ("CPSB"), Colonel Eric Sweeney, and Sergeant Adron Hester. Record Document 21. Plaintiffs complaint brings claims for invasion of privacy/ defamation, violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act, the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, violation of Fourteenth Amendment due process and state law procedural due process, malicious prosecution and breach of contract, all arising out of CPSB's termination of Plaintiff's employment. Record Documents 1-2, 12.

         For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Record Document 21] is GRANTED. Plaintiff's claims are dismissed with prejudice as nonjusticiable under the Feres doctrine.

         I. Background

         The patties agree on the following facts. Plaintiff Logan Fileccia is a retired Army Major. Record Document 1-2, p. 1. He was hired by the CPSB to be an instructor in the Junior Reserve Officers'Training Corps ("JROTC") program at Fair Park High School in Caddo Parish, beginning in the fall of 2014. Id., p. 2. Col. Sweeney is the Director of Army Instruction for the JROTC units at CPSB and was Plaintiff's supervisor. Record Document 1, p. 4. Sgt. Hester is a JROTC instructor at Fair Park High School. Record Document 12, p. 2. The Secretary of the Army is required to establish and maintain a JROTC unit at any qualified school that requests one, and oversees all JROTC programs nationwide. 10 U.S.C. § 2031. A JROTC instructor must be either active duty military or retired military who meet certain requirements and have qualifications approved by the Secretary. Id., § 2031(d). The Secretary, through the United States Army Cadet Command ("Cadet Command"), issues a certification to retired military personnel who meet the necessary requirements. Only certified personnel may be employed as JROTC instructors. Instructors are employed by the school district, not by the Army. Plaintiff is retired from the Army and was certified by the Secretary to act as a JROTC instructor. Record Document 1-2, p. 1. Plaintiff worked as the JROTC instructor from September 2014 to March 2015, when Cadet Command decertified Plaintiff as a JROTC instructor. Record Document 21-1, p. 4. Because CPSB is required to employ only certified JROTC instructors, Plaintiff was terminated. Id.

         The parties differ over the reason for the decertification and resulting termination. Plaintiff contends that there were serious irregularities in the administration of the JROTC program at Fair Park High School, which he tried to bring to the attention of his superior, Col. Sweeney, who had previously been the JROTC instructor at Fair Park High School. Record Document 1-2, p. 2. In an effort to discredit Plaintiff, Col. Sweeney and Sgt. Hester allegedly made false reports to school administration that Plaintiff had threatened to burn down the school and was a threat to students. Ig\, p. 3. Defendants Hester and Sweeney allegedly also made false reports to Cadet Command that Plaintiff was mentally unstable, which led to Plaintiffs decertification and termination. IcL, p, 4.

         Defendants contend that there were incidents at the school that showed that Plaintiff was not properly supervising students. Record Document 21-1, pp. 2-3. Defendants further contend that Plaintiff volunteered that he suffered from combat-reiated PTSD and that he was seeking ongoing treatment as a result. Id. Coi. Sweeney and Sgt. Hester, concerned about Plaintiff's fitness to serve as a JROTC instructor, took the issue up the chain of command to the JROTC Chief in the U.S. Department of Army, and ultimately filed a "decertification review packet." Id., p. 4. Thereafter, Plaintiff was decertified by Cadet Command.

         Following his termination, Plaintiff brought suit in state court, alleging state law tort claims for invasion of privacy, because Col. Sweeney allegedly improperly allowed Sgt. Hester to see Plaintiff's personnel records, including his medical records, and for defamation, because Co!. Sweeney and Sgt. Hester falsely reported to Cadet Command that Plaintiff suffered from a serious psychiatric condition and was a threat to students. Record Document 1-2. After this action was removed, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging several additional claims. Record Document 12. Plaintiff claims CPSB terminated him on the basis of disability in violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (42 U.S.C. § 12102) and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (La. R.S. 23:323). Plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, and a parallel claim for violation of state constitutional due process, for deprivation of his property interest in his employment. Plaintiff also alleges Louisiana law claims for malicious prosecution against Col. Sweeney, for instituting the decertification procedure, and breach of contract against CPSB. All of these claims arise out of the events leading up to Plaintiff's decertification as a JROTC instructor and consequent termination by CPSB, Plaintiff seeks reinstatement, back pay and benefits, and compensatory damages for economic injury and injury to his professional reputation.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs that a 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."[1] Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving party, the moving party need not produce evidence to negate the elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it need only point out the absence of supporting evidence. See Id. at 322-323, If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact with the motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for dispute at trial by going "beyond the pleadings" and designating specific facts for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). "This burden is not satisfied with 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, '" by conclusory or unsubstantiated allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1985) (internal citations omitted); Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986) (the court must "review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion"). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating the credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary judgment where the critical evidence in support of the nonmovant is so weak and tenuous that it could not support a judgment in the nonmovant's favor. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         B. Feres Doctrine

         The Feres doctrine, sometimes referred to as the intramilitary immunity doctrine, prohibits military personnel from bringing actions in federal court for injuries suffered "incident to their service in the armed forces, " Waich v. Adjutant General's Dep't of Texas, 533 F.3d 289, 294 (5th Cir. 2008). The doctrine is "premised on the disruptive nature of judicial second-guessing of military decisions." Id., at 296. Allowing a plaintiff to bring a claim against military personnel ...

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