Hutchins v. Clarke, No. 10-2661 (7th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
During a radio call-in show, plaintiff, a deputy sheriff, called in response to critical comments regarding defendant's (county sheriff) involvement with an African-American community organization dedicated to reducing crime and indicating that defendant was not a good fit for his position. Defendant called in and retorted by describing plaintiff as a "slacker" and mentioning a disciplinary action taken in 2004 against plaintiff for "sexual harassment." In actuality, the disciplinary action was for violation of a department rule that prohibited offensive conduct or language. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for disclosure of plaintiff's disciplinary history, a claim under Wisconsin's Open Records Law, and a claim under Wisconsin's Right of Privacy statute. The Seventh Circuit reversed. There was no Records Act violation; there was no request to inspect a disciplinary record, no permission granted, and no balancing test undertaken. The information at issue is a matter of public record, so there was no Privacy Act violation. Rejecting a First Amendment retaliation claim, the court noted that there was no threat, coercion, or intimidation.