Kiel, John B. v. City Kenosha WI ( 2000 )

  • In the
    United States Court of Appeals
    For the Seventh Circuit
    No. 00-2651
    Appeal from the United States District Court
    for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
    No. 00 C 782--John W. Reynolds, Judge.
    Argued NOVEMBER 7, 2000--Decided DECEMBER 8, 2000
    Circuit Judges.
      COFFEY, Circuit Judge. On May 30, 2000,
    John Kiel, a firefighter employed by the
    City of Kenosha, Wisconsin, filed a
    complaint under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983
    alleging that the City’s residency
    requirement violated the equal protection
    clause of the Fourteenth Amendment./1
    Kiel also filed a motion for a
    preliminary injunction requesting that
    the court enjoin the defendants from
    enforcing the residency requirement. The
    trial court denied Kiel’s motion for a
    preliminary injunction, concluding that
    the plaintiff had very little chance of
    success on the merits. Kiel filed an
    interlocutory appeal, and we affirm./2
      The facts of this case are
    straightforward. Kiel and his fiancee
    wanted to buy a house in Racine County
    and live there but could not because, as
    a Kenosha firefighter, Kiel was required
    to reside in Kenosha County. On May 19,
    2000, Kiel, despite the residency
    requirement, made an offer on a house in
    Caledonia, Wisconsin, which is in an
    adjacent county known as Racine County,
    and sought a waiver of the residency
    requirement from the City Administrator,
    Nick Arnold./3 On May 22, 2000, Kiel
    sent another letter to Arnold informing
    him that Kiel’s offer to purchase the
    Caledonia property was accepted, but was
    contingent on Kiel’s ability to obtain a
    waiver of the residency requirement. In a
    joint letter, Kiser and Grapentine denied
    Kiel’s request for a waiver of the
    residency requirement. In a separate
    letter, Arnold also denied Kiel’s
    request. Instead of accepting the City’s
    decision, Kiel brought this suit and
    sought a preliminary injunction barring
    the enforcement of the residency
    requirement. As stated above, the trial
    judge denied the motion for a preliminary
    injunction, holding that Kiel had little
    chance of succeeding on the merits of his
    claim. Kiel appeals.
      The sole issue on appeal is whether the
    trial judge acted correctly in denying
    Kiel’s preliminary injunction motion. In
    reviewing a denial of a preliminary
    injunction, we review the district
    court’s findings of fact for clear error,
    its balancing of the factors for a
    preliminary injunction under the abuse of
    discretion standard, and its legal
    conclusions de novo. Platinum Home
    Mortgage Corp. v. Platinum Fin. Group,
    149 F.3d 722
    , 726 (7th Cir. 1998).
    In assessing whether a preliminary
    injunction is warranted, a court must
    consider whether the party seeking the
    injunction has demonstrated that: 1) it
    has a reasonable likelihood of success on
    the merits of the underlying claim; 2) no
    adequate remedy at law exists; 3) it will
    suffer irreparable harm if the
    preliminary injunction is denied; 4) the
    irreparable harm the party will suffer
    without injunctive relief is greater than
    the harm the opposing party will suffer
    if the preliminary injunction is granted;
    and 5) the preliminary injunction will
    not harm the public interest. Id./4 As
    the district court concluded, Kiel has so
    little chance of success on the merits of
    his case that the granting of a
    preliminary junction in this instance
    would be inappropriate.
      Initially, the Supreme Court, in
    McCarthy v. Philadelphia Civil Service
    424 U.S. 645
     (1976) and
    Detroit Police Officers Ass’n v. City of
    405 U.S. 950
     (1972), recognized
    the right of municipalities to condition
    employment with continued residency in
    the city. See also Joel E. Smith,
    Validity, Construction, and Application
    of Enactments Relating to Requirement of
    Residency Within or near Specified
    Governmental Unit as Condition of
    Continued Employment for Policemen or
    4 A.L.R. 4th 380
     (1981). As the
    parties stipulated at oral argument, the
    City of Kenosha could have enacted an
    even more stringent residency
    requirement; that is, one which required
    its firefighters to live within the city
    limits of Kenosha rather than within the
    parameters of Kenosha County.
      The appellant attempts to get around
    this concession by arguing that the
    requirement that Kenosha firefighters
    reside in Kenosha County irrationally
    distinguishes between those individuals
    who wish to live outside the county and
    those who wish to live inside Kenosha
    County. Kiel further contends that the
    distinction is irrational because the
    residence he wishes to purchase in Racine
    County is actually closer to the City of
    Kenosha than are some of the residences
    where he could reside within the limits
    of Kenosha County. However, when applying
    the "rational basis" test, "statutory
    classifications will be set aside only if
    no grounds can be conceived to justify
    them." McDonald v. Board of Election
    394 U.S. 802
    , 809 (1969).
    The City has set forth a plethora of
    rational justifications for the residency
    requirement, including improving the
    City’s tax base, increasing interest and
    participation in Kenosha City and County
    events, and providing services (through
    more revenue) which benefit Kenosha City
    and County residents. Examples of such
    benefit are, according to the City,
      (a) The County and City fund joint
    services, such as dispatch, jail and
    evidence retention;
      (b) The City and County share a tactical
    squad which consists of employees of the
    City Police Department and the County
    Sheriff’s Department;
      (c) The City discontinued its Health
    Department and entered into an agreement
    through which the County provides health
    services to the City. The County has the
    authority to adopt and enforce health-
    related ordinances in the City;
      (d) The County contributes to the
    operation of the City’s Hazardous
    Response Team;
      (e) From time to time, the City and
    County enter into cost sharing agreements
    relating to the construction of roads
    within the City.
    We are of the opinion that these reasons
    are more than sufficient to provide a
    rational basis for the City’s residency
      It is important to note that all
    interested parties agree that the City of
    Kenosha could constitutionally require
    its firefighters to live within the
    limits of the City. Given that the City
    could constitutionally restrict its
    employees to an area as small as the City
    of Kenosha, it is obviously
    constitutional for the City to require
    its employees to live in Kenosha County,
    a much larger geographical area.
    Furthermore, the residency requirement
    has been uniformly applied to all the
    City’s firefighters and no waiver has
    ever been granted. Fifty-two out of
    fifty-three fire department employees
    reside in Kenosha County. The one Kenosha
    firefighter who is living outside Kenosha
    County is doing so because of a family
    medical situation. However, the
    firefighter has never received a waiver
    of the residency requirement and is
    subject to a pending enforcement action.
    Therefore, Kiel cannot (and does not)
    claim that the city discriminated against
    him in its application of its residency
      Given that Kiel’s chances of succeeding
    on the merits of his claim are so minimal
    as to be almost non-existent, we agree
    with the trial judge and affirm the
    denial of Kiel’s motion for a preliminary
    injunction. Kiel will still have his day
    in court (this was only the denial of a
    preliminary injunction, not a grant of
    summary judgment), but his case is
    extremely weak.
      The decision of the district court is
    /1 In 1998, the City of Kenosha entered into a
    collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the
    International Association of Fire Fighters, Local
    #414. The CBA, which is still in effect, requires
    firefighters to reside in Kenosha County:
    Personnel of the Fire Department shall reside
    within Kenosha County. Any man/woman appointed to
    the department and not residing within the afore-
    mentioned county upon appointment must do so
    prior to the completion of the probationary
    /2 This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
    sec. 1292(a)(1), which states:
    (a) Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d)
    of this section, the courts of appeals shall have
    jurisdiction of appeals from:
    (1) Interlocutory orders of the district courts
    of the United States, the United States District
    Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the
    District Court of Guam, and the District Court of
    the Virgin Islands, or of the judges thereof,
    granting, continuing, modifying, refusing or
    dissolving injunctions, or refusing to dissolve
    or modify injunctions, except where a direct
    review may be had in the Supreme Court.
    /3 Kiel also sent copies of his letter to Chuck
    Grapentine, the City’s personnel director, Joseph
    Kiser, the fire chief, and Matt Loewen, the
    president of Kiel’s Union.
    /4 The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to
    minimize the hardship to the parties pending
    resolution of their lawsuit or arbitration.
    Platinum, 149 F.3d at 726; Sauer-Getriebe KG v.
    White Hydraulics, Inc., 
    715 F.2d 348
    , 351 (7th
    Cir. 1983).