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Third Cir. Mulls Timeliness, Qualified Immunity in Governor Claim

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 06, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments this week in a Delaware State Police officer’s sex discrimination lawsuit against former Governor Ruth Minner. The court is considering whether the statute of limitations or qualified immunity should prevent the case from proceeding to trial.

Corporal Timothy Shockley, who has served with Delaware State Police (DSP) since 1992, filed a civil rights claim against Minner in 2006, claiming that she blocked his promotion because of his sex.

Shockley served in the Executive Protection Service Unit (EPSU) of the DSP. The EPSU is in charge of protecting Delaware's governor, much like the Secret Service protects the president. It is also only the DSP unit in which the governor, rather than the Superintendant of the DSP, makes the promotion decisions.

Corporal Shockley alleged that he was a top contender for a promotion to head the EPSU in 2003, when then-Governor Minner personally vetoed his promotion. Though Shockley had qualified by examination and received a recommendation from the Superintendant of the Delaware State Police, he claims that Minner wanted to promote a woman to be the first female EPSU leader.

Instead of Shockley, a female trooper received the promotion.

Court documents indicate that Shockley was not told the "true reason" he was passed over for the promotion, and only learned that he had been considered to head EPSU in April or May of 2005. Shockley filed his sex discrimination lawsuit in 2006.

Ruth Minner is appealing her motion to dismiss the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Minner says the case should not be allowed to proceed because Shockley filed after the statute of limitations expired, because Minner is protected by qualified immunity, and because Shockley failed to establish enough facts to prove discrimination at trial, reports The News Journal.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is not expected to announce its opinion for several weeks.

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