Thompson v. Dorchester Co Sher

Filing 920080609

Opinion

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 07-1548 JEFFREY THOMPSON; JOHN J. SMITH, Plaintiffs - Appellants, v. DORCHESTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; DORCHESTER COUNTY; RAY NASH, Individually and in his official capacity; JOHN BARNEY BARNES; WILLIAM FRENCH; TIM STEPHENSON, Defendants - Appellees. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. David C. Norton, District Judge. (2:06-cv-00968-DCN) Argued: May 13, 2008 Decided: June 9, 2008 Before WILLIAMS, Chief Judge, SHEDD, Circuit Judge, and Claude M. HILTON, Senior United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. ARGUED: John Allen O'Leary, O'LEARY & ASSOCIATES, INC., Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellants. Caroline Wrenn Cleveland, Charleston, South Carolina; Alissa DeCarlo, BARNWELL, WHALEY, PATTERSON & HELMS, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: M. Dawes Cooke, Jr., John William Fletcher, BARNWELL, WHALEY, PATTERSON & HELMS, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellee Tim Stephenson. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. 2 PER CURIAM: Appellants Jeffrey Thompson and John J. Smith appeal the district court's order denying relief on their complaint under 42 U.S.C.A. 1983 (West 2003 & Supp. 2007). deputy sheriffs with the Dorchester Appellants, both former County, South Carolina Sheriff's Department, contend that Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash and county staff members William French, John Barney Barnes, and Tim Stephenson (collectively "Appellees") violated their First Amendment rights by engaging in a pattern of harassment and intimidation because Appellants supported Nash's opponent in the sheriff's election. Applying the two-step framework set forth in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001), the district court first concluded that Appellants had properly alleged a violation of a constitutional right to be free from harassment based on their support of Sheriff Nash's opponent in the election but then also concluded that such right was not clearly established at the time of Appellees' alleged actions.1 Accordingly, the court granted Appellees' motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity.2 To be clear, the district court did not find a constitutional violation to the extent that Appellants' claims were predicated on job termination. See Jenkins v. Medford, 119 F.3d 1156 (4th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (holding that sheriff's patronage dismissals of deputy sheriffs did not violate the First Amendment because deputy sheriffs were policymakers). Appellants also allege a claim based on their right to a "secret ballot." As the district court recognized, however, the Supreme Court has never recognized secrecy in voting as a constitutionally-guaranteed right. 3 2 1 We have reviewed the record, the district court's thorough opinion, and heard oral argument in this case, and find no reversible error. Accordingly, we affirm based substantially on See Thompson v. Dorchester the reasoning of the district court. County Sheriff's Dep't, No. 2:06-cv-00968-DCN (D.S.C. May 4, 2007). AFFIRMED 4

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