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Bradley v. Cruz

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 30, 2017

JOHN BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
TIMOTHY J. CRUZ, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff John Bradley brings this action against Defendants Timothy Cruz, Michael Horan, Frank Middleton, and the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office for claims arising out of Bradley's employment, and termination of employment, as the Deputy First Assistant District Attorney and Chief District Court Prosecutor in the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office (“D.A.'s Office”). Bradley alleges violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I against Cruz, Horan, and Middleton); violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (Count II against Cruz, Horan, and Middleton); tortious interference with an advantageous contractual, business, or employment relationship (Count III against Horan and Middleton); wrongful termination in violation of public policy (Count V against the D.A.'s Office); and violation of the Massachusetts Whistleblower Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 184 (Count VI against the D.A.'s Office).

         Pending before the court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#131] and Defendants' Amended Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiff's Omnibus Statement [#163]. For the reasons set forth in this order, the summary judgment motion is ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and the motion to strike is DENIED.

         I. Motion to Strike

         Defendants have moved to strike certain portions of Bradley's Local Rule 56.1 statement, asserting that certain responses do not properly controvert Defendants' corresponding statement of undisputed fact and that other responses do not contain record citations. Each response by Bradley in his Local Rule 56.1 statement that Defendants contest includes citations to the record. Whether the record evidence is sufficient to controvert Defendants' corresponding statements is an issue for summary judgment but is not a basis for striking the responses.

         Defendants also assert that certain responses include “inappropriate argument and innuendo.” The court declines to strike these responses but relies only upon facts supported by the summary judgment record. See Ferring Pharms., Inc. v. Braintree Labs., Inc., No. 13-12553-NMG, 2016 WL 6078287, at *8 (D. Mass. Oct. 14, 2016); Shervin v. Partners Healthcare Sys., Inc., 2 F.Supp.3d 50, 60 (D. Mass. 2014), aff'd, 804 F.3d 23 (1st Cir. 2015).

         II. Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. Standard

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of fact exists if an issue can be resolved in favor of either party. Calero-Cerezo v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 355 F.3d 6, 19 (1st Cir. 2004). A fact is material if it has the potential to affect the outcome of the case. Id. In passing on a motion for summary judgment, the court construes all properly supported evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in its favor. Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 1990). The burden falls on the moving party to demonstrate an “absence of evidence to support the non[-]moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Cattret, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). When the moving party satisfies that burden, the non-moving party “must adduce specific facts showing that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor.” Murray v. Warren Pumps, LLC, 821 F.3d 77, 83 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)).

         B. Summary Judgment Record

         Although many facts are strongly disputed and a jury may well reach a different conclusion, the record is recited here in the light most favorable to Bradley, the non-moving party, as required on summary judgment. Griggs-Ryan, 904 F.2d at 115. Based on the summary judgment record, a jury finding Bradley's evidence credible and resolving factual disputes in his favor could find the following chronology of events:

         Bradley began his career in the D.A.'s Office in 1991, where he served until 2001, when he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office.

         In November 2001, Cruz was appointed the Plymouth County District Attorney. He was elected to a four-year term in 2002.

         In 2003, Bradley returned to the D.A.'s Office, and shortly after his return, was named Deputy First Assistant District Attorney.

         Bradley has presented evidence that, at ¶ 2003 meeting about salary increases, the D.A.'s Office's Chief Legal Counsel, Michael Horan, commented to another assistant district attorney about the extent to which individual employees had supported Cruz's 2002 campaign. According to Bradley, Horan also told him “on many occasions” in 2004 or 2005 that individual contributions from employees “were important to Mr. Cruz” and that political contributions were tied to decisions about raises.

         In 2005, and again in 2006, Bradley contributed $500 to Cruz's 2006 re-election campaign. Also in 2005 or 2006, Bradley became Chief District Court Prosecutor, supervising attorneys that practiced in the county's district courts. As such, he was the fourth highest paid attorney in the D.A.'s Office. Although advising assistant district attorneys practicing in the county's superior courts was never among Bradley's official responsibilities, Horan and Cruz informally tasked Bradley with this additional role when First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton was unavailable.

         In 2006, Cruz was re-elected to a second four-year term, and in both 2007 and 2009, Bradley again contributed $500 to Cruz's re-election campaign.

         In 2009, Bradley met with Cruz to discuss, among other things, Bradley's concerns about Frank Middleton's decisions as to the handling of cooperating witnesses in homicide cases. Cruz advised Bradley he would look into these concerns but did not. Cruz did tell Middleton that Bradley had complained about Middleton.

         In 2010, Bradley shared with Horan his concerns about a particular cooperating witness' potential for violence. Horan later reported to Bradley that Horan had spoken with Cruz, who had professed “complete faith” in Frank Middleton's decisions regarding this witness.

         Eventually, a rift developed among D.A.'s Office employees over the direction the office was taking, particularly with respect to a series of administrative decisions made by Frank Middleton. On one side of the schism sat Middleton and a group of employees that included Middleton's wife, Bridget Middleton. On the other side was Bradley, Horan, and a group of assistant district attorneys, including Karen O'Sullivan.

         Bradley did not contribute to Cruz's re-election campaign in 2010. Bradley contends that, after he stopped contributing to the campaign, Horan told him “several times” that the Middletons had tried to persuade Cruz to fire him for this reason. According to Bradley, Horan told Bradley that the Middletons had told Horan, “Well, Tim's not quite there yet. But they're still working on it.”

         In or around 2010, according to Bradley, Horan instructed him to transfer an assistant district attorney to an office far from his home, because that attorney had not contributed to or participated in Cruz's campaign. Bradley complied. Bradley further has presented evidence that, in 2010, Horan told O'Sullivan that Cruz and Frank Middleton were displeased with O'Sullivan's lack of participation in the campaign, and he advised her to participate. According to Bradley, Horan told Bradley that Horan was present at a meeting in which Frank Middleton tried to persuade Cruz to determine O'Sullivan's pay raise based on her lack of participation in the campaign. Additionally, Bradley has submitted an affidavit from a former D.A.'s Office employee who asserts that, during Cruz's tenure, she was “pressured to participate and/or contribute to his political campaign” and that this expectation “was part of the office culture.”

         Cruz was re-elected for a second full term as Plymouth County District Attorney in November 2010. After the election, in late November or early December 2010, Bradley raised concerns to Horan about Middleton's decisions regarding yet another cooperating witness. A few days later, Horan told Bradley that he had addressed the matter with Cruz, who was not concerned.

         By December 2010, the rift in the D.A.'s Office had come to a head. A group of assistant district attorneys, including Bradley, planned to approach Cruz with concerns about Frank Middleton's leadership decisions while the Middletons were away on vacation. Bridget Middleton learned about their plans and, on her own initiative, met separately ...

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