IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA JILL E. MANCINI v. NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, et al. : : : : : CIVIL ACTION No. 14-963
AND NOW, this 3rd day of July, 2014, upon consideration of Defendants’ motion to dismiss and Plaintiff’s response, and after oral argument on the motion it is ORDERED the motion (Document 6) is DENIED without prejudice to revisit the issues raised therein at the summary judgment stage.
Plaintiff Jill E. Mancini brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for violations of her constitutional rights in connection with her termination from her position as an Assistant County Solicitor for Northampton County. She asserts a First Amendment claim, as well as procedural due process and equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants moved to dismiss all claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the individual Defendants have not raised a qualified immunity defense at this time. On a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept as true all of the facts alleged and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff’s favor.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal
, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In order to withstand dismissal, Plaintiff’s claims must be facially plausible, meaning the allegations must contain sufficient “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Plaintiff’s cause of action is based on political patronage discrimination. As a general rule, political patronage dismissals violate the First Amendment.
See Elrod v. Burns
, 427 U.S. 347, 360 (1976). An exception to this rule exists, however, when the employer can demonstrate that “party affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of the public office involved.”
Branti v. Finkel
, 445 U.S. 507, 518 (1980). This is an inherently factual determination, and to invoke the exception, Defendants carry the burden of proving that “political affiliation is central to the job itself.”
Galli v. N.J. Meadowlands Comm’n
, 490 F.3d 265, 271 (3d Cir. 2007);
Wetzel v. Tucker,
139 F.3d 380, 383-84 (3d Cir. 1998) (observing “[t]he character of this inquiry is inherently fact-specific in that it requires a court to examine the nature of the responsibilities of the particular job at issue”). Defendants seek to invoke this exception as a basis to dismiss the Complaint. There is, however, only one allegation in the Complaint regarding Plaintiff’s job responsibilities as Assistant County Solicitor. This single allegation, which simply lists a representative sample of
Case 5:14-cv-00963-JS Document 14 Filed 07/03/14 Page 1 of 2