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Muldrew v. County of Fresno

August 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge


(Doc. 23)


Plaintiff Darren Hise ("Plaintiff") is proceeding with this civil rights action against Defendants the Country of Fresno and Kenneth Taniguichi ("Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims.

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims on May 20, 2010. (Doc. 23). Plaintiff filed opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment on June 14, 2010. (Doc. 28).


Plaintiff commenced employment as a defense investigator with the Fresno County Public Defender's Office ("PDO") in 2000. (PUMF 1). In 2003, Plaintiff was promoted to "Senior Defense Investigator," a supervisory position that was essentially the top investigative position within the PDO. (PUMF 2).

Plaintiff's Leave Request

On April 2008, Plaintiff submitted a request for time off for the week of April 14-18. Taniguichi reviewed the request and believed that Plaintiff failed to complete the request by not identifying the type of leave requested. Taniguichi denied the first day of leave requested and provided a note to Plaintiff directing him to see his supervisor regarding the remaining leave requested. Plaintiff sought an explanation regarding the initial denial of leave and spoke to Taniguichi. (Opposition, Ex. 1 at 273). During the discussion, Taniguichi asked Plaintiff what his requested medical leave was for. (Id. at 274). Plaintiff responded that Taniguichi did not have a right to know, and that Plaintiff would contact his union representative as recourse for denial of the leave. (Id. at 274). Plaintiff then left Taniguichi's office, prompting Taniguichi to go out into the hall and yell for Plaintiff to return. (Id. at 275). Taniguichi approached Plaintiff in the common area and repeated his query about Plaintiff's leave request, and Plaintiff continued to assert that Taniguichi was not entitled to know. (Id. at 276). Ultimately, Plaintiff and Taniguichi returned to his office, quarreled over their respective rights for a few more minutes, and ultimately reached a resolution whereby Plaintiff did not reveal the reasons for his leave request but was granted the full leave requested. (Id. at 279-281).

Muldrew's Complaint

In June 2008, one of Plaintiff's co-workers, Ivana Muldrew, returned to work at the PDO's office after having been on leave for several weeks. (PUMF 12). Muldrew told Plaintiff that she felt that her supervisor, Celica Alderete, was unfairly assigning Mudlrew excess work in order to set her up for failure. (PUMF 17). Plaintiff did not have a good relationship with Alderete and had witnessed Alderete use profanity and slam doors. (PUMF 18). Plaintiff told Muldrew that he agreed that Alderete's conduct was hostile and designed to set Muldrew up for failure. (PUMF 17).

On July 18, 2008, Plaintiff signed a letter authored by Muldrew which detailed Alderete's treatment of Mudlrew and also alleged other unprofessional conduct on Alderete's part. (PUMF 19). The letter was addressed to the the PDO. Plaintiff alleges that he signed the Muldrew's letter in order to prompt the County to investigate and respond to Alderete's conduct toward Muldrew as well as "racial issues" Plaintiff perceived were being caused by Alderete.*fn1 (PUMF 19). On July 24, 2008, Muldrew submitted a discrimination complaint form to the County's Labor Relations Division with the Junly 18 letter attached. Muldrew checked the boxes "race" and "color" on the discrimination complaint form.

Charlotte Tilkes and Deborah Harper interviewed Plaintiff in connection with Muldrew's complaint in August 2008. Hise confirmed Muldrew's complaints to Tilkes and Harper. Plainitff also confirmed that Muldrew had been subjected to criticism by an attorney in the PDO, Marguerita Martinez, that Plaintiff believed was not based upon Muldrew's work performance. Finally, Plaintiff indicated that Alderete's close relationship with Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Diaz ("Diaz") affected employees' willingness to "cross" Alderete. Plaintiff was told that he was not to discuss his interview, and that it would remain confidential. (PUMF 20).

Approximately a week after Plaintiff's interview with Tilkes and Harper, Diaz, Plaintiff's supervisor, Diaz, asked to meet with Plaintiff and questioned him about Alderete's problems with Muldrew. Plaintiff felt uncomfortable because he felt Diaz was trying to learn what Plaintiff had told Tilkes and Harper. (PUMF 21). The following day, on August 21, 2008, Plaintiff contacted Tilkes and Harper to discuss his concerns regarding his meeting with Diaz. During Plaintiff's meeting with Tikles and Harper, they became defensive and asked Plaintiff if he was accusing them of divulging the substance of their prior interview of Plaintiff. Plaintiff wanted to leave the meeting, but Harper insisted that he stay. Harper and Tilkes tried to give Plaintiff paperwork to file a complaint, but Plaintiff declined. (PUMF 22). Plaintiff eventually left the meeting, and shortly after 3 p.m., he saw Harper and Tilkes walking to Starbucks. Plaintiff contends he did not say or do anything to Harper or Wilkes. (PUMF 23).

Plaintiff left work at 4:15 p.m. on the day of his second meeting with Tilkes and Harper. Shortly after leaving, Plaintiff recieved a call from Ron Perring, the Chief Attorney for Major Crimes at the PDO, asking him to return to work to speek with Kenneth Taniguchi. (PUMF 24). Plaintiff returned to work and was met by Taniguchi, Jim Dockery, and Gary Shinaver. Plaintiff was told he was being put on administrative leave and was directed to hand over his keys and ID. Taniguchi instructed Plaintiff not to go into or near the Dependency Office, the Courts, Crocker Building, Plaza Building, or Juvenile Hall. Plaintiff asked for a letter stating the reasons for Taniguchi's decision, but Taniguchi declined. (PUMF 25).

Taniguchi sent an email to all PDO employees advising them to have no contact with Plaintiff. (PUMF 26). On August 24, 2008, Taniguchi sent a letter to Plaintiff advising him that he was placed on paid administrative leave and reiterating that Plaintff was not to have contact ...

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