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Boxill v. O'Grady

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 16, 2019

Andrea Boxill, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
James P. O'Grady; Carrie E. Glaeden; James E. Green; Emily Shaw; Michael T. Brandt, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Columbus. No. 2:16-cv-00126-Michael H. Watson, District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Michael Garth Moore, LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL GARTH MOORE, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Linda L. Woeber, Anthony P. McNamara, MONTGOMERY, RENNIE & JONSON, Cincinnati, Ohio, Paula J. Lloyd, Pamela J. Gordon, COLUMBUS CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellees.

          Before: BOGGS, KETHLEDGE, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          JANE B. STRANCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Andrea Boxill brought this suit against four Ohio judges and a court administrator at Ohio's Franklin County Municipal Court (FCMC).[1] She makes several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including First Amendment retaliation, civil conspiracy, and creation of a hostile work environment. The district court dismissed her claims. We AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Boxill worked at FCMC as its Specialty Dockets Coordinator. Four of the Defendants below-Michael Brandt, Carrie Glaeden, James Green, and James O'Grady-were state court judges at FCMC. The remaining Defendant, Emily Shaw, was FCMC's Court Administrator.

         Boxill alleges that "the Defendants . . . formulated a concealed plan and policy that female FCMC employees asserting complaints about abusive and discriminatory treatment at the hands of Judges would be discouraged and intimidated into silence." Although she says this plan originated in 2007, her complaint does not identify any abusive treatment directed at her until November 2011, when O'Grady "began making hostile comments" that "mirrored sexist and racist allusions [he] had directed at [her] when he had been Bailiff" at the same courthouse in the past. She also claims that Brandt was "hostile and intimidating to [her] personally" around the same time.

         According to the complaint, Boxill reported her "ongoing harassment" to administrators and judges at FCMC-including Green and Shaw-several times between 2011 and 2013. She alleges that "[n]o administrator or Judge acted on these reports, but each discouraged [her] from action." In April 2013, the "Defendants began removing [her] responsibilities and diminishing [her] abilities to function as coordinator." Sometime thereafter, she "learned that Defendants had given a male subordinate a $14, 000.00 per year increase in salary with no commensurate consideration of her contributions."

         In March 2014, Scott VanDerKarr-a judge at FCMC who was not named as a defendant-drafted a letter to Brandt (copying Shaw and Glaeden) about O'Grady's behavior. Boxill does not provide the contents of VanDerKarr's letter, but she suggests that it "reported O'Grady's creation of a hostile work environment." After Brandt reviewed a draft of VanDerKarr's letter, he directed Shaw to tell VanDerKarr to "tone it down." It was Shaw who then wrote a new draft of the letter. This revised draft expressed concern that, "if left unaddressed, Judge O'Grady's behavior m[ight] result in future litigation that could subject the Court to liability, possibly for the creation and continuation of a hostile work environment, and the payment of damages."

         Boxill alleges that "the Defendants knew" this letter was meant to "memorializ[e] complaints made" by her against O'Grady. A week after Shaw wrote the letter, Boxill was "formally demoted by Defendants." She claims that O'Grady then "recruited 'a team of Judges' to monitor [her] and her staff and frankly announced that he was 'targeting' Specialty Docket staff." The Defendants "began bypassing [her] on issues that were hers to address, and going directly to the Caucasian male subordinate who lacked her experience and qualifications." She eventually resigned in August 2014.

         Boxill later filed this suit. Her complaint alleges that (1) each Defendant retaliated against her in violation of the First Amendment, § 1983, and § 1981, (2) the Defendants conspired to retaliate against her, and (3) each Defendant contributed to a hostile work ...


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