Piesco v. Koch
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
12 F.3d 332 (2d Cir. 1993)
Dr. Judith Piesco (plaintiff) was a hiring test administrator for the Department of Personnel (DOP) for the City of New York (City) (defendants). Piesco initially received excellent evaluations from her managers, Juan Ortiz and Nicholas Laporte, Jr. (defendants), and merit raises. However, after the police officer examination was simplified, there was a dispute between Piesco and the DOP. The previous exam’s pass mark was 82; Piesco believed it should be raised to 89. The pass rate was set at 85. Piesco then told a state senate committee investigating the police department that “any moron could pass.” Piesco testified at a hearing that a functionally illiterate person might pass. After Piesco berated Ortiz, a letter of reprimand was placed in her file. Ortiz and Laporte rated Piesco’s performance marginal, both claiming the ratings were unrelated to her statements to the committee. Piesco filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit, alleging she was retaliated against and terminated for exercising her First Amendment rights. The district court initially granted summary judgment to the defendants, but was reversed. The jury concluded Piesco was fired because of her constitutionally protected statements and awarded $1.8 million in damages. The defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The district judge felt the jury verdict was clearly wrong, but denied the motion based on the statement of a majority of the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Dunlap-McCuller v. Riese Organization, 980 F.2d 153 (2d Cir. 1992), that a new trial was inappropriate unless a jury verdict was “egregious.” The defendants appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kearse, J.)
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