Riddle v. Graham et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing that: (1) Commissioner Guy's motion for summary judgment (Doc. # 43 ) on Mr. Riddle's federal-law claims is GRANTED; (2) Mr. Riddle's federal-law due process and equal protection claims, set out in Count II of the complaint, are DISMISSED with prejudice; and (3) The pending state-law claims set out in Counts I, II, and III, and Defendants' pending motions for summary judgment on the same, are REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County; the Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to effectuate the remand. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 1/20/15. (scn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CHARLES P. RIDDLE, III,
JACKIE GRAHAM, et al.,
CASE NO. 2:13-CV-110-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Charles P. Riddle, III is a former state law enforcement officer with
the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (“DCNR”). While on
duty, he was regrettably one of the persons who discovered the burned body of his
missing sister. Mr. Riddle’s sister’s murderer bound her and left her in the trunk of
a flaming car. Mr. Riddle was called upon to testify at the murder trial and
After Mr. Riddle’s sister’s death, his work performance suffered.
supervisors became aware that Mr. Riddle was not working the hours that he
reported working and that he used his state vehicle for personal hunting trips.
When Mr. Riddle did not or could not refute their accusations, his supervisors
recommended his termination.
Mr. Riddle immediately visited a doctor who
diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) related to the murder
of his sister, but an injury review board appointed by the DCNR found that his
injury was the result of his willful conduct of participating in the investigation of
his sister’s death. Mr. Riddle’s employment was terminated, and he appealed his
termination to an administrative law judge and the State Personnel Board. Each
affirmed the termination.
Mr. Riddle now sues the DCNR Commissioner,
N. Gunter Guy, the State Personnel Director, Jackie Graham, the State Personnel
Board as an entity, and the Personnel Board’s members, Jon D. Barganier, John
Carroll, Joe N. Dickson, Jackie Graham, Faye Nelson, and Joanne Randolph, for
alleged violations of federal and state law.
Commissioner Guy is the only
defendant facing federal-law claims. Defendants jointly removed the case from
Before the court are motions for summary judgment filed by Ms. Graham
and the Personnel Board members (Doc. # 42)1 and Defendant N. Gunter Guy
(Docs. # 43, 44, 45).
Mr. Riddle opposes the motions (Docs. # 47, 48, 49).
Defendants have replied. (Docs. # 51, 52.) Upon consideration of the parties’
arguments, the evidence, and the relevant law, the court finds Commissioner Guy’s
motion for summary judgment is due to be granted with respect to Mr. Riddle’s
The document is titled “Respondents’ Brief Opposing Petitioner’s Complaint.” It has
been construed as a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 46.)
federal-law claims and that the remaining state-law claims against Commissioner
Guy and the other Defendants are due to be remanded to state court.2
I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
The court has subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331,
1441, and 1367. Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
To succeed on summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate “that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The court must view the evidence and
the inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Jean-Baptiste v. Gutierrez, 627 F.3d 816, 820 (11th Cir. 2010).
The party moving for summary judgment “always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
This responsibility includes
identifying the portions of the record illustrating the absence of a genuine dispute
of material fact. Id. Or a movant who does not have a trial burden of production
can assert, without citing the record, that the nonmoving party “cannot produce
admissible evidence to support” a material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 advisory committee’s note (“Subdivision (c)(1)(B)
The remaining arguments in support of Defendants’ motions for summary judgment
may be considered in state court upon remand.
recognizes that a party need not always point to specific record materials. . . . [A]
party who does not have the trial burden of production may rely on a showing that
a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry
its burden as to the fact.”). If the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to establish – with evidence beyond the pleadings – that a
genuine dispute material to each of its claims for relief exists. Celotex, 477 U.S.
A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party
produces evidence allowing a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict in its favor.
Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001).
Mr. Riddle is a former law enforcement officer for the DCNR who was
assigned to District IV of the DCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
His duties included traveling Lee County, Alabama, to monitor hunting and fishing
Commissioner Guy is the ultimate authority within the DCNR. Ms. Graham
is the Director of the State Personnel Department. The Personnel Board is a state
agency charged with reviewing personnel decisions of other agencies like the
DCNR. Mr. Dickson chairs the Personnel Board, and Ms. Nelson, Mr. Carroll, Mr.
Barganier, and Ms. Randolph are the other Board members.3
The Personnel Board members are sued in their official capacities only, but
Ms. Graham and Commissioner Guy are each sued in both their individual and
official capacities. No misconduct is attributed to Ms. Graham in Mr. Riddle’s
complaint, and it is unclear why she is joined as a party to this suit. (Compl.
at ¶¶ 2–6.)
Mr. Riddle’s Tenure with the DCNR
Mr. Riddle worked for the DCNR from 2006 to 2012 and received favorable
performance appraisals during his tenure. On December 18, 2010, Mr. Riddle
learned that his sister, who lived in Florida not far from Geneva County, Alabama,
was missing. At the time, Mr. Riddle was working in another county’s field office,
and his supervisor gave him permission to travel and to assist Geneva County
Conservation Enforcement Officers in searching for his sister. On December 20,
2010, Mr. Riddle and Officer Richard Mowbray found what remained of Mr.
Riddle’s sister’s body. Mr. Riddle’s sister had been burned alive in the trunk of a
car with her hands tied behind her back. Mr. Riddle claims that the stress of the
Alabama law provides that a petition for judicial review of an agency decision “shall
name the agency as respondent.” Ala. Code § 41-22-20(h) (emphasis added). The Personnel
Board members dispute their joinder as respondents.
situation has caused him to suffer from PTSD, although he was not diagnosed with
PTSD until 2012.
On March 18, 2011, Mr. Riddle emailed his supervisor, Captain Mike
Pollard,4 to inform him that he felt that he needed a break or that he might be
“going crazy” because he had been forgetting things and making simple mistakes.
(Compl. at ¶ 14.) Captain Pollard and Division Chief Kevin Dodd did not inquire
about Mr. Riddle’s mental status when they saw him the following day.
At some point in the fall of 2011, Captain Pollard suspected falsifications in
Mr. Riddle’s reports of his activities, but according to Mr. Riddle, no one
counseled him or made their suspicions known to him. Captain Pollard says,
however, that he made Mr. Riddle aware, as early as March 2011, that Mr.
Riddle’s weekly reports were inaccurate. By February 2012, Captain Pollard noted
that Mr. Riddle was making fewer arrests in the field.
The District Attorney in Holmes County, Florida, requested that Mr. Riddle
review the evidence in his sister’s murder case in December of 2011. He was
subpoenaed to attend her trial, which lasted from February 23, 2012, until March 2,
2012. Mr. Riddle also attended the murderer’s pre-sentencing hearing in April and
his sentencing in May 2012.
At the time, Captain Pollard was a lieutenant.
On April 21, 2012, Captain Pollard sent Mr. Riddle to the DCNR’s
headquarters “on a pretense and secretly placed a GPS tracking device” on Mr.
Riddle’s assigned state car.
(Compl. at ¶ 21.)
Captain Pollard says that he
consulted with Chief Dodd about placing a trackstick on the car, read literature
about the use of the trackstick, and tested it on his own car before employing it to
monitor Mr. Riddle.
Subsequent review of Mr. Riddle’s weekly reports revealed several
discrepancies when compared with the trackstick data. For example, Mr. Riddle
drove his state vehicle on days that he reported being off-duty; Mr. Riddle did not
drive his vehicle at all on days that he reported working in the field; Mr. Riddle
visited his personally leased hunting property on days that he reported working;
and Mr. Riddle did not work full days as indicated on his reports.
Disciplinary Action and Appeals
On May 31, 2012, Mr. Riddle was summoned to the DCNR’s headquarters.
For the first time, he was confronted about allegedly falsifying documents by Chief
Dodd, Captain Pollard, and Captain Lewis, who secretly recorded the meeting.
During the meeting, Mr. Riddle says that he reported that he had been “having
some problems since the discovery of his sister’s body and requested help.”
(Compl. at ¶ 23.) However, Mr. Riddle acknowledged that he had not maintained
good reports, that he had travelled to his hunting property while on duty, that he
had gone hunting in his state vehicle three or four times, and that he had reported
performing job duties on a day that he never left his home.
After the meeting, Mr. Riddle was instructed to make a written statement.
He submitted two statements in which he admitted that he had not conducted
patrols as he should, that he had not worked the hours that he reported, and that he
had been at home worrying about personal problems. (Doc. # 10-2, at 271–73.)
Chief Dodd, Captain Pollard, and Captain Lewis recommended Mr. Riddle’s
termination as a result of their investigation and Mr. Riddle’s response.
In his defense, Mr. Riddle quickly submitted a forensic psychiatric
evaluation prepared by Dr. Bruce Atkins in which Dr. Atkins diagnoses Mr. Riddle
with PTSD and attributes its onset to Mr. Riddle’s “job activities ordered by his
superiors” in the search and recovery of his murdered sister. (Doc. #49-3, at 78.)
Upon receipt of Dr. Atkins’s evaluation, Commissioner Guy appointed an injury
review board consisting of Chief Dodd, Officer David Smith, and Officer Daniel
Boutwell. Mr. Riddle complains that this review board did not interview him or
Officer Mowbray, who witnessed Mr. Riddle’s response to the discovery of his
sister’s body. Additionally, he alleges that Commissioner Guy did not properly
appoint the Injury Review Board and that its members, particularly Chief Dodd,
were biased. The Injury Review Board submitted its findings to Commissioner
Guy in a memorandum dated June 27, 2012. (Doc. # 45-4, at 3–4.) The Personnel
Board concluded that Mr. Riddle’s reported work-related injury “did not occur
within the parameters” set by Alabama law because Mr. Riddle’s “presence at the
scene of the incident [was] a direct result his own willful conduct.” (Doc. # 45-4,
After a hearing on June 28, 2012, Commissioner Guy terminated Mr.
Riddle’s employment with the DCNR. The DCNR’s Notice of Termination and
Right to Appeal dated July 2, 2012, states that Mr. Riddle was fired for
insubordination, falsifying records, leaving before the end of his shift, and using
state equipment for personal use. (Doc. # 10-1, at 45.) Mr. Riddle appealed. On
September 12–13, 2012, Mr. Riddle was provided a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) with the State Personnel Department. The tape
of the May 31, 2012 meeting was played for the ALJ who admitted it as an exhibit.
Mr. Riddle complains that the DCNR did not disclose the recording to him prior to
the hearing, in spite of Mr. Riddle’s request for such information.5 The ALJ
ultimately affirmed Mr. Riddle’s termination. Mr. Riddle appealed the ALJ’s
ruling to the Personnel Board, which held a hearing on December 19, 2012, and
likewise upheld the termination. (Doc. # 10-1, at 235–38.)
Mr. Riddle alleges that both the ALJ and the Personnel Board erroneously
decided that Mr. Riddle is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act
Defendants stress that Mr. Riddle’s counsel admitted to the ALJ that he thought the
audio “helped us more than it hurt us.” (Doc. # 10-1, at 364.)
(“ADA”). (Compl. at ¶¶ 35–36.) However, there is no claim for relief under the
ADA. (See Compl. at 6–9.) Mr. Riddle further complains in his brief – not his
pleading – that the Personnel Board violated his rights by going into executive
session before publicly voting to uphold Mr. Riddle’s termination. He asserts in
his brief that “[t]here is no procedure established by any rule or regulation that
allow[ed] [the Personnel Board] to go into ‘executive session’” under the
circumstances presented by his case (Doc. # 48, at 10) and that it was Ms.
Graham’s duty to prepare and recommend such a rule to the Personnel Board (Doc.
# 48, at 11).
He also claims that the Personnel Board violated his rights by
announcing its decision while he was not present – another fact not pleaded in the
Complaint. (Doc. # 48, at 12.)
Mr. Riddle filed a three-count complaint in the Circuit Court of Montgomery
County, Alabama, on January 29, 2013.6 Count I is a petition for judicial review of
the decision of the ALJ and the Personnel Board, brought pursuant to the Alabama
Administrative Procedure Act (“AAPA”), see Ala. Code § 41-22-1 et seq. Mr.
Defendants stress in their briefing that Mr. Riddle failed to file a timely notice of appeal
with them before filing his complaint in circuit court. The Personnel Board transmitted the
record of his appeal to the circuit court. (See Docs. # 10-1, 10-2, 10-3.)
Riddle requests that the court set aside and hold invalid the Personnel Board’s
decision and order his reinstatement with full back pay and benefits.
Count II is a constitutional claim for denial of due process and equal
protection against “the DCNR,” which is not a named defendant, for its failure to
apply its policy of “progressive discipline” against Mr. Riddle. (Compl., at ¶ 40.)
Mr. Riddle alleges that “the DCNR” violated his rights to equal protection and due
process as guaranteed by the U.S. and Alabama Constitutions. (Compl., at ¶ 39
(citing Ala. Code § 36-21-13).) The complaint does not state that Count II is
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but Commissioner Guy assumes and
proceeds as though it is.7 Mr. Riddle seeks compensatory and punitive damages on
his constitutional claims.
Count II contains no request for reinstatement or
prospective equitable relief, although Mr. Riddle asks for reinstatement in Counts I
Count III is an ambiguous state-law claim that Commissioner Guy failed to
properly appoint an injury review board in accordance with state law. (Compl.
at ¶¶ 43–44 (citing Ala. Code § 36-21-13).) Section 36-21-13 does not create a
private right of action under state law against a state agency head who neglects to
follow the statute’s directives for appointing injury review boards. Commissioner
Section 1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of any [state law],
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or
other proper proceeding for redress . . . .”
Guy muses that Count III is perhaps some sort of tort claim for negligence or
wantonness. (See Doc. # 44, at 15.) Mr. Riddle asks that a jury be permitted to
determine that he was injured while on duty and that the court require the DCNR to
reinstate his salary and benefits until he is able to return to work.
Defendants jointly removed the case to federal court on February 20, 2013,
citing this court’s federal-question jurisdiction over Count II. (Doc. # 10, at ¶ 4.)
The Personnel Board, its members, and Ms. Graham untimely moved to dismiss
Count I for failure to state a claim. The Personnel Board members and Ms.
Graham likewise sought dismissal from the case as defendants because the AAPA
provides that the petition for review shall name the agency that rendered the
decision as the respondent. The court denied the motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 38.)
For reasons to be discussed infra at Part IV.C., the court addresses only the
defenses and summary judgment arguments associated with Mr. Riddle’s federal
constitutional claims raised against “the DCNR” in Count II of the Complaint.
Commissioner Guy proceeds on the assumption that Mr. Riddle attributes the
DCNR’s alleged misconduct to him.
Commissioner Guy raises several immunity defenses in his motion for
Mr. Riddle’s brief is altogether unresponsive to these
arguments, as well as the immunity defenses raised by the other Defendants. (See
Doc. # 48.)
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Commissioner Guy asserts that Mr. Riddle’s federal-law claims against him
in his official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. (Doc. # 44, at 16–
17.) The Eleventh Amendment provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or
prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” “[B]y its terms the Amendment applies
only to suits against a State by citizens of another State,” but the Supreme Court
“ha[s] extended the Amendment’s applicability to suits by citizens against their
own States.” Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001).
Moreover, “[l]awsuits against a state official in his or her official capacity are suits
against the state when ‘the state is the real, substantial party in interest.’” Carr v.
City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1524 (11th Cir. 1990) (quoting Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984)).
There are two exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity:
Congress abrogates state immunity pursuant to its power to enforce Section 5 of
the Fourteenth Amendment; or where a state expressly waives its immunity
through legislative action. Id. at 1524–25. Neither exception applies in this case.
In a similar vein, Commissioner Guy contends that states are not “persons”
subject to suit under § 1983, and a suit under § 1983 against a state official “is no
different from a suit against the State itself.” Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Upon consideration of these authorities, the court finds that Commissioner
Guy is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity against Mr. Riddle’s federal-law
claims against him in his official capacity.8 Furthermore, even without Eleventh
Amendment immunity, any § 1983 claim against Commissioner Guy in his official
capacity is due to be dismissed as a matter of law.
Commissioner Guy also raises qualified immunity as a defense to the
federal-law claims raised against him in his individual capacity. (Doc. # 44, at 18–
20.) Qualified immunity is a defense to a § 1983 action against a government
official sued in his individual capacity. Under the doctrine, “government officials
The Personnel Board members and Ms. Graham raise Eleventh Amendment immunity
as a defense against any claims against them in their official capacities (Doc. # 42, at 20–22), but
the court cannot discern any federal-law claims against them in Mr. Riddle’s Complaint, and for
the reasons stated infra, the state-law claims are due to be remanded to state court.
performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person should have known.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
Commissioner Guy contends that his
allegedly unlawful actions (failing to produce a recording and improperly
overseeing the administration of progressive discipline) were within his
discretionary authority as DCNR Commissioner. He further contends that his
actions, taken in the light most favorable to Mr. Riddle, do not show that he
violated Mr. Riddle’s constitutional rights to due process or equal protection.
Indeed, there are no allegations or arguments that Commissioner Guy
deprived Mr. Riddle, prior to termination, of notice of the charges against him, of
an explanation of the DCNR’s evidence of his misconduct, or of the opportunity to
present his side of the story. See Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S.
532, 546 (1985) (requiring these basic protections). Nor are there allegations or
arguments that Mr. Riddle was treated differently than other similarly situated
public employees on the basis of his membership in a class. See Engquist v.
Oregon Dep’t of Agr., 553 U.S. 591, 594 (2008) (acknowledging the equal
protection of public employees who are treated differently because of the
membership in a class but rejecting the “class-of-one” theory of equal protection in
the context of public employment); Alford v. Consol. Gov’t of Columbus, Ga., 438
F. App’x 837, 840 (11th Cir. 2011) (affirming the extension of Engquist’s holding
in the context of merit system state employees). In the absence of evidence that
Commissioner Guy committed a clearly established constitutional violation, he is
entitled to qualified immunity on the individual capacity claims in Count II.9
Even without qualified immunity, it would be appropriate to grant summary
judgment in favor of Commissioner Guy on the federal-law claims. Commissioner
Guy argues that Count II is devoid of facts attributing unlawful actions to him
Both of the allegedly wrongful actions supporting Count II –
specifically, (1) the non-disclosure of the recording of the May 31, 2012 meeting
prior to its introduction as evidence in the hearing before the ALJ, and (2) the lack
of “progressive discipline” in Mr. Riddle’s case – are attributed to either “the
DCNR” generally or to Mr. Riddle’s “immediate supervisor,” but not to
Commissioner Guy. (Compl. at ¶¶ 39–41.) Commissioner Guy contends that
“[n]either the transcript of [Mr.] Riddle’s termination hearing regarding the dispute
over this recording nor any other evidence . . . show any participation whatsoever
by Commissioner Guy in the termination hearing.”
(Doc. # 44, at 9.)
Commissioner Guy further contends that, to the extent that Mr. Riddle complains
Ms. Graham also raises qualified immunity as a defense to any federal-law claims
against her in her individual capacity (Doc. # 42, at 18–20), but the court cannot discern any
claim against her in Mr. Riddle’s Complaint – federal or otherwise. (See generally Compl.
(identifying Ms. Graham in ¶ 2 and never mentioning her again).)
that Commissioner Guy’s subordinates violated Mr. Riddle’s rights, there is
typically no respondeat superior or vicarious liability under § 1983. See Cottone
v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003). For these reasons, Commissioner
Guy argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on the merits of the federallaw constitutional claims in Count II. (See Doc. # 44, at 9–11.)10
In Mr. Riddle’s response to Commissioner Guy’s motion for summary
judgment, Mr. Riddle devotes his attention to his claim that the DCNR’s Injury
Review Board did not lawfully handle his claim that he suffered an on-the-job
injury that affected his job performance.
(Doc. # 48, at 15–22.)
Review Board’s appointment and procedures are at issue, not in Count II, but
perhaps in Count III. (See Compl. at 8–9.) Mr. Riddle asserts at one point that
“[t]he entire Injury Review Board procedure . . . violated [his] due process and
equal protection rights,” (Doc. # 48, at 19), but Mr. Riddle does not offer any legal
authority explaining how federal law was violated.11 Significantly, Mr. Riddle’s
brief includes no discussion of the two issues denominated in Count II – the audio
recording presented during the hearing before the ALJ or the DCNR’s lack of
“progressive discipline,” and Mr. Riddle does not rebut any of Commissioner
Commissioner Guy also argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on the merits
of Mr. Riddle’s similar state-law constitutional claims contained in Count II. (See Doc. # 44,
at 11–13.) For reasons to be discussed infra, the court declines to consider the merits of any
Furthermore, Mr. Riddle may not amend Counts II and III through summary judgment
briefing. See Gilmour v. Gates, McDonald & Co., 382 F.3d 1312, 1315 (11th Cir. 2004).
Guy’s arguments in favor of summary judgment on Count II. Commissioner Guy
therefore avers that Mr. Riddle has abandoned the claims in Count II. (Doc. # 52,
It is well-settled in this Circuit that “grounds alleged in the complaint but not
relied upon in summary judgment are deemed abandoned” and “[t]here is no
burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be
made based upon the materials before it on summary judgment.” Resolution Trust
Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc). For this
reason, Commissioner Guy is entitled to summary judgment on the merits on the
basis of Mr. Riddle’s abandonment of Count II as pleaded in the Complaint.
However, the Circuit has also held that a court may not enter summary
judgment on claims in the absence of a response from the non-moving party unless
the moving party satisfies Rule 56(a). See United States v. One Piece of Real
Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir.
2004) (“[T]he district court cannot base the entry of summary judgment on the
mere fact that the motion was unopposed, but, rather, must consider the merits of
the motion.”). Therefore, the court also finds that Commissioner Guy’s motion for
summary judgment on the federal constitutional claims in Count II is well-taken on
its merits because: (1) Mr. Riddle has not ascribed any of the misconduct alleged
in Count II to Commissioner Guy personally; and (2) on this record, Commissioner
Guy is not liable under § 1983 for the misconduct of his subordinates.
In summary, Commissioner Guy is entitled to summary judgment on Mr.
Riddle’s federal-law claims.
Propriety of Remand of Remaining State-law Claims
Count II’s federal-law constitutional claims were the basis for this court’s
jurisdiction pursuant to Defendants’ notice of removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
(See Doc. # 10, at ¶ 4.) Although Mr. Riddle’s federal-law claims are due to be
dismissed, the court has authority to exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1367 over the state-law claims in Counts I, II, and III that arise from
the same facts. See Palmer v. Hosp. Auth. of Randolph Cnty., 22 F.3d 1559, 1567
(11th Cir. 1994). But a federal court has discretion not to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction once it “has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). “Where § 1367(c) applies, considerations of
judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity may influence the court’s
discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.” Baggett v. First Nat’l Bank of
Gainesville, 117 F.3d 1342, 1353 (11th Cir. 1997).
In this instance, the
consideration of comity prevails. Resolution of Counts I and III depend heavily
upon application of Alabama law and the interpretation of Alabama statutes, and
“[s]tate courts, not federal courts, should be the final arbiters of state law.” Id.12
“[C]oupled with the [c]ourt’s discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under
§ 1367(c),” the court concludes that Mr. Riddle’s remaining state-law claims “are
best resolved” in Alabama’s courts. Id.
“[W]hen a court has discretionary jurisdiction over a removed state-law
claim and the court chooses not to exercise its jurisdiction, remand is an
appropriate alternative.” Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 354–55
(1988). Therefore, this action is due to be remanded to state court for resolution of
the remaining state-law claims.
In accordance with the foregoing findings, it is ORDERED that:
Commissioner Guy’s motion for summary judgment (Doc. # 43) on
Mr. Riddle’s federal-law claims is GRANTED;
Mr. Riddle’s federal-law due process and equal protection claims, set
out in Count II of the complaint, are DISMISSED with prejudice; and
It is true that Mr. Riddle’s AAPA claim (Count I) alleges that that the Personnel Board
violated his rights to equal protection and due process, and the Personnel Board has defended
itself by relying on some federal case law, but an AAPA claim arises from a right to judicial
review created by an Alabama statute, and many of the Personnel Board’s more fundamental
defenses relate to Alabama’s courts’ interpretation and application of that statute. Most of those
defenses rely on clearly articulated decisions of Alabama’s courts, but in the event that the
disposition of any of Mr. Riddle’s claims turns on an interpretation or application of Alabama
Code § 36-21-13, there are no published Alabama decisions discussing that law or explaining
what relief is available to a person like Mr. Riddle who asserts that the law was improperly
applied to his claim that he was injured on the job.
The pending state-law claims set out in Counts I, II, and III, and
Defendants’ pending motions for summary judgment on the same, are
REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County.
The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to
effectuate the remand.
A separate final judgment will be entered as to Mr. Riddle’s federal-law
DONE this 20th day of January, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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