Monday, August 21, 2006

mandamus - ministerial duty v. discretionary act

Chadwick v. Office of Coroner - Commonwealth Court - August 17, 2006

Mother of deceased sued the county coroner to try to force him to change his conclusion about the cause of the death of plaintiff's brother, which the coroner had held was suicide. The court held that mandamus does not lie to order a public official to exercise his discretion in a particular way. It can generally only be used to compel the offiicail to perform acts which are required or obliged to be performed, and which do not involve an exercise of discretion. The court noted that a "refusal to exercise discretion may be addressed in a mandamus action" but that was fundamentally different from the case where discretion has been exercised and the plaintiff disagrees with the decision, i.e., how it was exercised.

disability - ALJ decision - findings and reasons

Woodson v. Barnhart - ED Pa. - August 14, 2006

The ALJ's SSD/SSI decision was upheld concerning a) rejection of the treating physician's opinion and b) the evaluation of the claimant's credibility, but the case was remanded because the ALJ "failed to specifically evaluate" the claimant's subjective complaints of "severe fatigue," about which the ALJ made only the general statements that the claimant's testimony about this was "exaggerated." The "ALJ is obligated to provide reasons for his...findings -- supported by record evidence -- that are sufficiendtly specific to show the ALJ's reasoning and the weight he gave to teh Plaintiff's statements...According, I must remand this case to the ALJ for reconsideration and a clear and logical statement of the facts supporting his conclusions."

employment - Title VII - retaliation

Walsh v. Irvin Stern's Costumes, Inc. - ED Pa. - August 15, 2006

The court granted plaintiff's motion to reinstate her Title VII retaliation claim, which was based on her allegation that the employer a) fired her 3 weeks after she told management that she was pregnant and b) had threatened to seek criminal charges against her unless she withdrew her discrimination claim.

The court noted that the 3d Circuit case law, on which its prior dismissal had been based, had been "specifically and squarely" overturned by the US Supreme Court, in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Rwy. v. White, 548 U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 2405 (2006) which "articulated a new, less stringent test for Title VII retaliation cases."

The prior dismissal was based on Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, 120 F.3d 1286 (3d Cir. 1997), where the court held that in order to satisfy the "adverse employment action" element of a Title VII case, the employer's retaliatory action had to affect the plaintiff's current or future employment. This holding was specifically abrogated in Burlington Northern , where the court held that "a plaintiff need only show the employer's actions 'would have been materially adverse to a reasonable employee or job applicant.' " 126 S.Ct. at 2409.