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Eckerman v. Tennesee Dep't of Safety, 09-6181

Patrolman's civil rights suit against the Department of Safety

Eckerman v. Tennesee Dep't of Safety, 09-6181, concerned a patrolman's civil rights suit claiming that he was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant and suffered other minor employment actions and retaliation due to his political support for Republican candidates and because he had filed a separate federal lawsuit against the Department of Safety in 2006 alleging discrimination based on political affiliation.

In reversing and remanding the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants in holding that the reasons articulated by the Department of Safety provided justification for the adverse employment action, the court held that the reasons for the demotion were precisely the same reasons that a neutral administrative law judge in her final decision found untrue and could not warrant the demotion, and as such, the facts found in the administrative proceeding by the ALJ are res judicata in this proceeding.  Thus, on remand, the jury must be advised of the findings of the ALJ in the administrative proceeding and the jury should then determine whether the Department's demotion of plaintiff was based on activity protected by the First Amendment.

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