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Argued: December 12, 2000

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this case, plaintiff-appellant Delores Armour claims that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was fired from her position as secretary to defendant-appellee Bea Schulte, then a County Commissioner of defendant-appellee Beaver County, Pennsylvania (“the County”). Armour contends that she was terminated because of her political beliefs, and hence that her termination contravened the general rule against political patronage dismissals established in Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976) and Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507 (1980). The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the County and Schulte, on the ground that the County and Schulte had satisfied the burden of establishing that political affiliation was an appropriate requirement for the secretarial position. Additionally, the District Court found, sua sponte, that appellant had failed to adduce sufficient evidence to enable a fact-finder to infer that her termination was politically motivated–i.e., to infer that, as Armour contended, Schulte decided to terminate her based on the perception that Armour was supporting a candidate other than the one backed by Schulte in a campaign for a local judgeship.

 
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