Case Studies for Laura S. Amtsbuechler

Oakland County Circuit Court number 15-149016-CK. An elected official, even one who receives compensation, does not have access to the same remedies as a municipal employee, as demonstrated in this case, where an elected treasurer sued the township, alleging violation of the Michigan Whistleblower’s Protection Act. RSJA strategically chose to file an early motion for summary disposition instead of an answer to the complaint, which the court granted. The maneuver spared the township the time and expense of protracted litigation.
Case No. 16-00702 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 13, 2016); Case No. 16-2741 (6th Cir. Jan. 5, 2018). The action involved allegations of First Amendment retaliation arising out of an email sent by a former City Attorney from her city email account to a non-city employee. The case revolved around differing interpretations of whether the city attorney’s actions constituted an official act which set policy for the City. Plaintiff said that, because the city attorney had “ultimate authority” in her position to respond to citizen emails, the city was liable. RSJA attorneys filed an early Motion to Dismiss, and the Court found that the City was not liable because the acts of the City Attorney were not within the scope of her authorized duties. The City prevailed and the decision was upheld by the Sixth Circuit.
USDC, Southern Division 15-12803. In this case, the federal District Court granted an early Motion to Dismiss on several of Plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law based upon immunity and because the Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege a valid basis for her claims. After discovery, the Court granted the Township’s Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Plaintiff had no evidence of an unconstitutional custom policy or practice on the part of the Township. (2018)
304 Mich App 637; 848 NW2d 200 (2014) (briefed and argued): Although a law-enforcement agency, during internal-affairs investigations, may compel its officers, on penalty of discharge, to give statements on the subject of the investigation, the constitutional right against self-incrimination prohibits the use of those forced statements against the officers in later criminal proceedings brought against them. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the statute limiting public inspection of law enforcement officers’ involuntary statements does not permit a private cause of action for monetary damages by an officer against a law enforcement agency.
United States District Court, Western District, Southern Division Case No. 1:14-cv-1285. When the city of Grand Rapids terminated the city clerk she sued, alleging race and gender discrimination. Because she was a political appointee the plaintiff was not entitled to Title VII protection, as RSJA successfully asserted in its motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were also dismissed because she was replaced by someone in the same protected classes.
Unpublished Court of Appeals #330689 (2017) Plaintiff Phillips was a City police officer who alleged religious discrimination after his employment was terminated for misconduct. After extensive discovery, the trial court found that Plaintiff did not have admissible evidence that he was terminated because of his religion. The Court found that the City had legitimate reasons for the dismissal and granted Summary Judgment. The Court of appeals affirmed.
2016 WL 1533562 (Mich App 2016 unpublished). Plaintiff operated a bar, restaurant, banquet center, and nightclub out of a structure that it had illegally expanded over a period of 20 years. Fire and construction code inspections led to an occupancy reduction from 2000 to 175 and multiple violation notices by the township and a lawsuit by the owner. The township won in circuit court, but the court denied the township’s request for sanctions based on a frivolous filing. Both sides appealed and the court confirmed the finding of a dangerous building. RSJA also appealed the denial of its request for sanctions and was eventually awarded $103,000 for the township in sanctions in addition to almost $30,000 in costs.
Unpublished Court of Appeals #334917 (2017). Plaintiff was a contractual consultant who services were terminated by the Court. Plaintiff sued alleging violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. RSJA attorneys obtained an early dismissal of this case with the argument that Plaintiff was not an employee entitled to protection under the WPA. Defendants also obtained sanctions for plaintiff’s filing of this frivolous suit. The ruling of the lower court, including the order that plaintiff pay sanctions was upheld on appeal.