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Bernard v. Detroit Public School District

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 6, 2015

WAYNE BERNARD, Plaintiff,
v.
DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #22)

MATTHEW F. LEITMAN, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This is a civil-rights action brought by Plaintiff Wayne Bernard ("Bernard"), a former employee of Defendant Detroit Public School District ("DPS"). On September 10, 2009, Bernard spoke during the public comment portion of a meeting held by the DPS Board of Education (the "Board"). During his remarks, Bernard announced to the Board that he was about to reveal the personal employee identification numbers of certain DPS employees. Bernard had previously read (or attempted to read) these numbers at earlier Board meetings, and, according to Board President Defendant Carla Scott ("Scott"), that resulted in "havoc." In order to avoid another major disruption, Scott cut off Bernard before he could read the file numbers and asked that security escort him from the room. Bernard was subsequently arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and, later, with disrupting a public meeting. Both charges were eventually dismissed.

On September 10, 2012, Bernard filed this action against DPS, Scott, and the police officers he claims were involved in his arrest. ( See the "Complaint, " ECF #1.) Among other things, Bernard claims that Scott violated his First Amendment rights when she cut off his remarks to the Board and that his civil rights were violated when he was arrested and prosecuted. ( See generally, id. ) Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. ( See the "Motion, " ECF #22.) For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In October 2008, Bernard worked for DPS as an aerial tower operator, earning $15.00 per hour. ( See Bernard Dep., ECF #27-1 at 14, Pg. ID 363.) In early November 2008, DPS laid off Bernard from his job. ( See id. at 13-14, Pg. ID 362-363.) Bernard says that he was told DPS eliminated his job due to "economic necessity." (Id. at 16, Pg. ID 365.) Bernard asserts, however, that at this same time, other DPS employees were "receiving overtime when [Bernard] was [purportedly] laid off for economic necessity." (Id. at 52, Pg. ID 401.) Upset over DPS's budget practices, Bernard attended Board meetings and spoke during the time allotted for public comment.

Defendant Carla Scott ("Scott") was the President of the Board from 2009-2011. ( See Scott Dep., ECF #27-2 at 7, Pg. ID 467.) According to Scott, on several occasions during her tenure as President, Bernard would speak during the time dedicated to public comment, and he would "read [out loud] people's [employee] file numbers, " which were "private numbers attached to particular [DPS] employees." (Id. at 19, Pg. ID 479.) Scott explained that when Bernard disclosed, or attempted to disclose, these file numbers, he "caused [] a disturbance at the Board meeting... People would get upset, they would start yelling... It [would] cause[] a lot of havoc at the meetings." (Id. at 20, Pg. ID 480.) ( See also id. at 24, Pg. ID 484 ("Every time [Bernard] attempted to read off the file numbers, it caused a problem" in the audience).) Scott therefore told Bernard that he "cannot do that [i.e., publically disclose the numbers] and [she] would make him stop, or [she] would turn off the mic[rophone]" when he attempted to read them out loud. (Id. at 20, Pg. ID 480.) (See also id. at 23-24, Pg. ID 483-484 ("At subsequent Board meetings, [] Bernard attempted to [read off the file numbers] again; and [Scott] never let him. [Scott] always stopped [Bernard] from reading the numbers").)

On September 10, 2009, Bernard attended a Board meeting and he spoke during the time allotted for public comment. Bernard first discussed a number of issues without incident or interruption. ( See Bernard Dep. at 46-49, Pg. ID 395-398.) Then Bernard announced to the Board that he was once again going to read aloud the employee file numbers of the DPS employees he believed to be receiving overtime compensation.[1] (Id. )

When Bernard threatened to disclose the file numbers, Scott stopped him and asked security to remove him from the meeting. According to Scott:

So when [Bernard] got up this time and said, "I'm going to read these file numbers" - and the reason why he said that [is] because he already knew that I wasn't going to allow him to read the file numbers because I cannot have him inciting a riot at the Board meeting. It's just not going to be allowed.
Then I had him removed because, number one, I believe the information to be private because that's what I had been told. Then number two is because it incites such a disturbance at the Board meeting that - and it has - to me, stating those numbers has nothing to do with whatever your comment is about. You should be able to say without giving people's personal information out.

[....]

So that's why I had him removed, because I just - I just can't have him, you know... having a huge hullabaloo. I just didn't want a riot at the meeting.

(Scott Dep. at 20-21, Pg. ID 480-481.)

Bernard was escorted from the meeting by members of the Detroit Public Schools Police Department, including (apparently) Defendants Lance Granberry ("Granberry") and Kelley Mays ("Mays"). As he was being escorted out of the room, Bernard loudly told the officers to keep their hands off of him, and he repeatedly yelled "you're going to get sued; you're going to get sued." ( See video of the incident, ECF #30; see also Scott Dep. at 67-68, Pg. ID 527-28 - confirming that Bernard was "still yelling, you know, as he was walking out.")

Bernard says that after he was taken into the hallway, he was surrounded by Granberry, Mays, and two other officers, Defendant Deborah Crane ("Crane") and Defendant Dennis Richardson ("Richardson"). ( See Bernard Dep. at 69, Pg. ID 418.) Defendant Roderick Grimes ("Grimes") supposedly stood "off on the side." (Id. ) Bernard says that Crane then "got up in [his] face" and gave an order that he be arrested. (Id. at 70, Pg. ID 419.) Granberry then grabbed Bernard's arm and Richardson handcuffed him. ( See id. at 71, Pg. ID 420.) Bernard was ultimately transported to a police station for processing. ( See id. at 72-73, Pg. ID 421-422.)

At some point, Granberry purportedly told Bernard that he was being arrested because he "raised [his] voice and [] was disorderly in the meeting." (Id. at 71, Pg. ID 420.) According to Bernard, Granberry said that "he [Granberry] could hear [Bernard] all the way out in... the hallway." (Id. at 72, Pg. ID 421.)

Following his arrest, Bernard was charged with disorderly conduct in violation of the Detroit City Code. ( See September 22, 2009, Warrant, ECF #27-6, Pg. ID 556-557.) Mays was listed on the warrant as the "victim or complainant." ( See id. ) That charged was dismissed. ( See Bernard Dep. at 81-82, Pg. ID 430-431.) Bernard was then charged with a new offense for his conduct before the Board: disturbing a public meeting. ( See April 7, 2010, Warrant, ECF #27-7, Pg. ID 559-560.) Mays was again listed as the "victim or complainant." ( see id. ) That charge was also subsequently dismissed. ( See Bernard Dep. at 81-82, Pg. ID 430-431.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Bernard filed this action against DPS, Scott, Grimes, Richardson, Crane, Mays, and Granberry on September 10, 2012. ( See Compl.) The Complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, includes six separate counts:

• In Count I, Bernard claims that Scott and DPS violated his First Amendment rights when they refused to allow him to "speak publicly at the appropriate time in a regularly scheduled meeting." (Id. at ¶34.)
• In Count II, Bernard alleges that all Defendants brought "a false and baseless charge against [him] [] in retaliation for [his] attempted exercise of ...

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