Brown v. Halpin, No. 16-3615 (2d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Defendants Brenda Halpin and the State of Connecticut appealed a district court judgment denying their motion to dismiss plaintiff Virginia Brown’s claims of First Amendment retaliation and violation of Connecticut General Statutes section 31–51q. Halpin argued on appeal to the Second Circuit she was entitled to qualified immunity, and the State argued that it was guarded from liability pursuant to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff?appellee Virginia Brown was hired by defendant?appellant the State of Connecticut in September 2012 as a “staff attorney II” in its Retirement Services Division (the “Division”). In October 2012, approximately one month after her hiring, Brown began making complaints that program was being improperly administered. Brown was responsible for providing legal services to the Comptroller and Connecticut State Employees Retirement Commission (the “Commission”); Brown prepared written materials for the Commission explaining that an incorrect standard was being applied. Brown alleged that members of the Division and Comptroller subsequently retaliated against her by systematically stripping her of job responsibilities. Brown filed a whistleblower complaint with the Auditors under Connecticut General Statutes in December 2013; by December 2014, her position in the Division was eliminated. Although Brown then transferred to another state agency, she lost two credited years of service for the purpose of eligibility for compensation and benefits. After review, the Second Circuit determined Halpin’s appeal was premature because her qualified immunity defense rested on disputed factual allegations. Although the Court found it had jurisdiction to hear the State’s sovereign immunity defense, it found Brown had alleged misconduct falling within the scope of 31–51q, which provided a limited waiver to the State’s sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Halpin’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction and affirmed the district court denying the State’s motion to dismiss Brown’s claims under 31– 51q.