Chappelle v. Leeds, City of et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn on 3/25/2013. (KAM, )
2013 Mar-25 PM 04:02
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MARLIN SLADE CHAPPELLE,
CITY OF LEEDS, a municipal
corporation; R. ERIC
PATTERSON, Mayor of the City of
Leeds, in both his individual and
CASE NO. 2:12-cv-2058-SLB
This case is currently before the court on defendant City of Leeds’s Motion for Partial
Dismissal, (doc. 6),1 and defendant R. Eric Patterson’s (“Mayor Patterson”) Motion to
Dismiss, (doc. 7). Upon consideration of the record, the submissions of the parties, the
arguments of counsel, and the relevant law, the court is of the opinion that the City of
Leeds’s Motion for Partial Dismissal, (doc. 6), is due to be granted in part and denied in part,
and Mayor Patterson’s Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 7), is due to be granted in part and denied
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Reference to a document number, [“Doc. ___”], refers to the number assigned to each
document as it is filed in the court’s record.
Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint
“does not need detailed factual allegations”; however, the “plaintiff’s obligation to provide
the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).2 “Factual allegations must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all
the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (internal citations and
footnote omitted). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
“When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint
‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits
attached thereto.’” Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000)
(quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long County, 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). All “reasonable
inferences” are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. St. George v. Pinellas County, 285 F.3d 1334,
In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the United States Supreme Court abrogated the oftcited standard that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it
appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which
would entitle him to relief,” which was set forth in Conley v. Gibson. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at
561 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The Supreme Court stated that the “no set of
facts” standard “is best forgotten as an incomplete, negative gloss on an accepted pleading
standard: once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of
facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. The “decision in Twombly
expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1953
1337 (11th Cir. 2002). “‘[U]nsupported conclusions of law or of mixed fact and law have
long been recognized not to prevent a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.’” Dalrymple v. Reno, 334
F.3d 991, 996 (11th Cir. 2003) (quoting Marsh v. Butler County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1036 n.16
(11th Cir. 2001)). Furthermore, “[a] complaint may not be dismissed because the plaintiff’s
claims do not support the legal theory he relies upon since the court must determine if the
allegations provide for relief on any possible theory.” Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield
of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364 (11th Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original; citation omitted).
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY3
The City of Leeds hired plaintiff Marlin Slade Chappelle (“Chappelle”) as a
paramedic firefighter on July 8, 2000. (Doc. 1 ¶ 3.) Chappelle had over seven years
experience as a firefighter and had been certified as a paramedic for approximately ten years.
(Id. ¶¶ 9 & 13.) Chappelle claims that, pursuant to state law and the City of Leeds’s own
policies and procedures, his paramedic certification entitled him to a 5% salary increase,
which he never received at any point during his employment. (Id. ¶¶ 14 & 16.)
Chappelle “spoke out” in defense of Ashley Graves (“Graves”), a female coworker
who accused the City of Leeds Fire Department of gender discrimination, in April of 2010.
(Id. ¶ 18.) A month later, Chappelle sent a letter to the Leeds City Council and Mayor
Patterson, the mayor of the City of Leeds, claiming that he had been subjected to
discrimination and retaliation. (Id. ¶ 21.) Specifically, Chappelle reported that he had
The facts are taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of
deciding these motions to dismiss.
spoken out in defense of Graves, that Mayor Patterson, Fire Chief Pierce, and Captain
Musgrove were retaliating against him, and that prior complaints to Mayor Patterson had not
resulted in any corrective action. (Id. ¶¶ 22-24.) Chappelle also reported that “Chief Pierce
was being paid by the City of Leeds while also working as the Chief of the Palmerdale Fire
Department,” and that “Captain Musgrove was running his personal business while on duty
and while being paid by the City of Leeds.” (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)
Two weeks after sending the letter, the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson suspended
Chappelle pending an employment hearing. (Id. ¶ 31.) The employment hearing was held
on May 28, 2010, and the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson terminated plaintiff’s
employment on June 7, 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33 & 64.) Chappelle was informed that he was
terminated for “insubordinate conduct.” (Id. ¶ 37.)
Chappelle commenced this litigation on June 1, 2012, against the City of Leeds and
Mayor Patterson in his individual and official capacities. (See generally id.) In Count One,
Chappelle alleges that the City of Leeds retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 57-61.) In Count
Two, Chappelle alleges that the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson in his official and
individual capacities retaliated against him in violation of the First and Fourteenth
Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 62-66.) Chappelle brings Count Two pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(“section 1983”). In Count Three, Chappelle alleges that the City of Leeds and Mayor
Patterson in his official capacity breached their contractual obligations and ministerial duties
by failing to pay him commensurate with his paramedic certification. (Id. ¶¶ 67-70.) The
City of Leeds responded by filing the pending Motion for Partial Dismissal, (doc. 6), and
Mayor Patterson responded by filing the pending Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 7). Both request
dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
CLAIMS AGAINST MAYOR PATTERSON IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY
Mayor Patterson moves to dismiss the claims against him in his official capacity,
arguing that the claims are duplicative and redundant of the same claims brought against the
City of Leeds. Chappelle offers no argument in response.
The court agrees that the section 1983 claims against Mayor Patterson in his official
capacity are, in fact, redundant and unnecessary. As noted by the Supreme Court, “[o]fficialcapacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an
entity of which an officer is an agent.’” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985)
(quoting Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Serv. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)).
“Because suits against a municipal officer sued in his official capacity and direct suits against
municipalities are functionally equivalent, there no longer exists a need to bring officialcapacity actions against local government officials, because local government units can be
sued directly.” Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 776 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing Graham,
473 at 166; Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985)). Accordingly, the section 1983
claims against Mayor Patterson in his official capacity are due to be dismissed as redundant
and unnecessary because Chappelle has sued the City of Leeds, the relevant municipality, on
the same grounds.
However, the authorities cited above and those cited by Mayor Patterson relate
exclusively to section 1983 claims. Mayor Patterson presents no legal authority suggesting
that breach of contract claims or breach of ministerial duty claims against a municipal officer
in his or her official capacity are duplicative of the same claims against the municipality
itself. In fact, a review of Alabama law indicates that the opposite is true. When sued in
their official capacity, State officers are afforded nearly the same absolute immunity that
Section 14 of the Alabama Constitution, Ala. Const. art. I, § 14, affords the State of Alabama
and its agencies, the reason being that “[t]he State cannot be sued indirectly by suing an
officer in his or her official capacity . . . .” Ex parte Bessemer Bd. of Educ., 68 So. 3d 782,
789 (Ala. 2011) (quoting Ala. Dep’t of Transp. v. Harbert Int’l, Inc., 990 So. 2d 831, 839
(Ala. 2008), abrogated on other grounds by Ex parte Moulton, No. 1111283, 2013 WL
285726, at *19 (Ala. Jan. 25, 2013)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, the
Alabama Supreme Court has identified certain causes of action that can be asserted against
State officers in their official capacity, but not the State, because “these actions are simply
not considered to be actions against the State for § 14 purposes.” Id. at 790 (emphasis
added) (quoting Harbert, 990 So. 2d at 840) (internal quotation marks omitted). Among
these causes of action include “actions brought to compel State officials to perform their
legal duties,” and “actions to compel State officials to perform ministerial acts.” Id. at 789-
90 (quoting Harbert, 990 So. 2d at 840) (internal quotation marks omitted). Mayor Patterson
is not a State official but rather is the chief executive officer of the City of Leeds. See Ala.
Code § 11-43D-14 (1975). “That is to say, [he] is, in [his] official capacity, within the line
and scope of [his] office, the agent of the City, through whom the City acts.” Dickinson v.
City of Huntsville, 822 So. 2d 411, 415 (Ala. 2001). Thus, suing Mayor Patterson in his
official capacity is usually tantamount to suing the City of Leeds itself. Id. Chappelle,
however, alleges that Mayor Patterson, acting in his official capacity, breached contractual
and ministerial duties owed to him under Alabama law and the City of Leeds’s policies and
procedures, and he seeks to compel Mayor Patterson to perform these duties. Because
Alabama law draws a legal distinction between the State and State officers in their official
capacity in “actions brought to compel State officials to perform their legal duties,” and
“actions to compel State officials to perform ministerial acts,” Ex parte Bessemer, 68 So. 3d
at 789-90 (quoting Harbert, 990 So. 2d at 840) (internal quotation marks omitted), it is
reasonable to assume that the same legal distinction exists between municipalities and
municipal officers in their official capacity in actions to compel municipal officers to
perform their legal or ministerial duties. Consequently, the court finds that the state law
claims against Mayor Patterson in his official capacity are not duplicative of the same claims
brought against the City of Leeds.
SECTION 1983 FIRST AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT
In Count Two, Chappelle alleges that the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson retaliated
against him in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment by terminating his
employment after he “participated in an EEOC investigation, spoke out against the
discriminatory treatment of his coworkers, and reported acts of corruption and retaliation to
Defendant Patterson and the Leeds City Council.” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 63.)
1. Fourteenth Amendment Retaliation
Defendants contend that Chappelle’s Fourteenth Amendment retaliation claim is due
to be dismissed as a matter of law because freedom from retaliation is not constitutionally
protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Chappelle provides no argument in opposition.
In Ratliff v. DeKalb County, 62 F.3d 338 (11th Cir. 1995), the Eleventh Circuit plainly
stated that “[t]he right to be free from retaliation is clearly established as a first amendment
right and as a statutory right under Title VII; but no clearly established right exists under the
equal protection clause to be free from retaliation.” Id. at 340 (emphasis in original).
Chappelle’s contention that he was terminated because of his protected expression raises a
retaliation claim under the First Amendment, but “[a] pure or generic retaliation claim . . .
simply does not implicate the Equal Protection Clause.” Watkins v. Bowden, 105 F.3d 1344,
1354 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted).
Accordingly, the Fourteenth Amendment
retaliation claims against the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson are due to be dismissed.
2. First Amendment Retaliation
a. City of Leeds
The City of Leeds contends that Chappelle’s First Amendment retaliation claim,
brought pursuant to section 1983, is due to be dismissed because Chappelle has not pleaded
a basis for establishing municipal liability. Indeed, “[t]he Supreme Court has placed strict
limitations on municipal liability under § 1983.” Grech v. Clayton County, 335 F.3d 1326,
1329 (11th Cir. 2003).
[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted
solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a
government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those
whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the
injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. This test contemplates that the claimant identify “(1) an officially
promulgated [municipal] policy or (2) an unofficial custom or practice of the [municipality]
shown through the repeated acts of a final policymaker,” Grech, 335 F.3d at 1329 (citations
omitted), that was the “moving force [behind] the constitutional violation,” id. at 1330
(quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 389 (1989)) (internal quotation marks
In the instant case, Chappelle has not identified any official policy or well-settled
custom or practice attributable to the City of Leeds which was the “moving force” behind his
termination. Although Chappelle alleges that his discharge constituted a governmental action
in violation of the First Amendment, this allegation, standing alone, does not create a
plausible basis for imposing municipal liability. The court therefore concludes that the
section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim against the City of Leeds is due to be
Mayor Patterson - Individual Capacity
Mayor Patterson contends that the section 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim
brought against him in his individual capacity is barred by the doctrine of qualified
The Eleventh Circuit has explained that:
When government officials act in a way that knowingly violates a clearly
established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person
would have known, they are not immune from suit and may be held liable for
the damage their actions caused. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818-19
(1982). But when these same officials make decisions that do not knowingly
violate such rights, they are not required to defend themselves in a lawsuit
seeking damages. Id. They are “immune” from suit. Id. We call this defense
“qualified immunity” because the official is immune from a damage lawsuit,
qualified upon his ability to show that he did not knowingly violate the
plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional right. Id.
Ray v. Foltz, 370 F.3d 1079, 1081-82 (11th Cir. 2004).
A plaintiff withstands a motion to dismiss predicated on qualified immunity by
alleging “sufficient facts to support a finding of a constitutional violation of a clearly
established law.” Chandler v. Sec’y of Fla. Dep’t of Transp., 695 F.3d 1194, 1198 (11th Cir.
Mayor Patterson claims that section 1983 claims involving defendants capable of
raising qualified immunity are scrutinized under a specifically heightened pleading standard.
Although the Eleventh Circuit previously applied a heightened pleading standard to section 1983
claims, this changed following the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701
(11th Cir. 2010). In Randall, a panel of the Eleventh Circuit interpreted the Supreme Court’s
holding in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), as overturning its prior application of a
heightened pleading standard in section 1983 cases. Randall, 610 F.3d at 708-09. The panel
held that “[p]leadings for § 1983 cases involving defendants who are able to assert qualified
immunity as a defense shall now be held to comply with the standards described in Iqbal.” Id. at
709. Thus, the plausibility standard enunciated in Iqbal and Twombly is the applicable pleading
2012) (citing Oliver v. Fiorino, 586 F.3d 898, 905 (11th Cir. 2009)); see also Andreu v. Sapp,
919 F.2d 637, 639 (11th Cir. 1990) (“[T]he defendant is entitled to dismissal when the
plaintiff has failed to allege a violation of a clearly established right.” (emphasis in original)
(citing Harlow, 457 U.S. at 818)). Therefore, Chappelle must allege that Mayor Patterson
violated his First Amendment rights and that his First Amendment rights were “clearly
established” at the time of the alleged violation.5
To establish a First Amendment retaliation claim, a public employee must demonstrate
that: “(1) the speech involved a matter of public concern; (2) the employee’s free speech
interests outweighed the employer’s interest in effective and efficient fulfillment of its
responsibilities; and (3) the speech played a substantial part in the adverse employment
action.” Cook v. Gwinnett County Sch. Dist., 414 F.3d 1313, 1318 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing
Bryson v. City of Waycross, 888 F.2d 1562, 1565-66 (11th Cir. 1989)). “The first two
elements are questions of law designed to determine whether the First Amendment protects
the employee’s speech.” Battle v. Bd. of Regents for Ga., 468 F.3d 755, 760 (11th Cir. 2006).
The third element is a “question of fact designed to determine whether the adverse
employment action was in retaliation for the protected speech.” Id. (citation omitted). Mayor
Patterson challenges the third element, arguing that Chappelle has not alleged an adverse
employment action, or any wrongdoing for that matter, taken by Mayor Patterson in
retaliation for Chappelle’s exercise of protected speech.
Courts may consider “the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis” in any order,
at their discretion. See Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009).
Although the Complaint contains little about any specific retaliatory conduct, in
Paragraph 64, Chappelle alleges that the “[a]ctions taken by Defendants [(i.e. the City of
Leeds and Mayor Patterson)], including the discharge of Plaintiff . . . were in retaliation for
Plaintiff’s protected speech.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 64 [emphasis added].) Paragraph 64 suggests that
Mayor Patterson was at least partially responsible for the decision to terminate Chappelle,
and it is axiomatic that termination constitutes an adverse employment action. Furthermore,
the one-month temporal proximity between the alleged protected speech and Chappelle’s
termination raises a plausible inference that the protected speech played a substantial or
motivating role in Mayor Patterson’s decision. See Castillo v. Roche Labs., Inc., 467 F.
App’x 859, 862 (11th Cir. 2012) (stating that a one-month interval between a
decisionmaker’s awareness of protected activity and an adverse employment action, standing
alone, may be sufficient to establish causation under Title VII); Akins v. Fulton County, 420
F.3d 1293, 1305 (11th Cir. 2005) (utilizing the “close temporal proximity” standard
applicable to Title VII retaliation cases to assess causation in a First Amendment retaliation
case). Accordingly, the court concludes that Chappelle has adequately alleged that he
suffered a constitutional violation at the hands of Mayor Patterson.6
The second part of the qualified immunity analysis is more simple, that is, whether the
law was clearly established that Mayor Patterson could not terminate Chappelle in retaliation
The court is, of course, not deciding whether Chappelle can actually establish a
constitutional violation, merely that he has alleged such a violation for purposes of deciding
Mayor Patterson’s Motion to Dismiss.
for exercising his First Amendment rights. As stated by the Eleventh Circuit, “[t]he law is
clearly established that an employer may not demote or discharge a public employee for
engaging in protected speech.” Travers v. Jones, 323 F.3d 1294, 1295 (11th Cir. 2003)
(citing Rankin v. McPherson, 483 U.S. 378, 383 (1987); Chesser v. Sparks, 248 F.3d 1117,
1122 (11th Cir. 2001)); see also Ratliff, 62 F.3d at 340 (“The right to be free from retaliation
is clearly established as a first amendment right . . . .” (emphasis in original)).
Because the factual allegations plausibly demonstrate that Mayor Patterson violated
Chappelle’s clearly established First Amendment rights, the court finds that Mayor Patterson
is not entitled to qualified immunity at this stage of the proceedings.
BREACH OF CONTRACT AND MINISTERIAL DUTIES CLAIMS
In Count Three, Chappelle alleges that the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson in his
official capacity breached contractual and ministerial duties by failing to pay him a 5% salary
increase commensurate with his paramedic certification as required by the “applicable law,
procedures, and City policy.” (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 67-70.) Chappelle requests, inter alia, backpay and
an order compelling defendants “to pay Plaintiff according to his vested property interest in
his proper compensation under the law.” (Id. at 13.) Defendants contend that Count Three
is due to be dismissed in its entirety because (1) Chappelle has not alleged the existence of
a binding contract, and (2) Alabama law does not recognize breach of ministerial duty claims
against municipalities or municipal officers.7
With respect to defendants’ first argument, the court agrees. It is beyond peradventure
that to state a claim for breach of contract a plaintiff must allege the existence of a valid,
binding contract between the parties, see Barrett v. Radjabi–Mougadam, 39 So. 3d 95, 98
(Ala. 2009), and there are such no allegations in the Complaint. Moreover, although “the
adoption by an employer of policies and procedures may, under appropriate facts, give rise
to implied contractual terms of employment between the employer and the employee,”
McCord-Baugh v. Birmingham City Bd. of Educ., 894 So. 2d 672, 676 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002)
(emphasis in original), rev’d in part on other grounds sub nom., Ex parte McCord-Baugh,
894 So. 2d 679 (Ala. 2004), Chappelle also has not alleged a cause of action for breach of
an implied contract. An employment policy creates implied contractual obligations only
when (1) “the language . . . is specific enough to constitute an offer,” (2) “the offer [is] . . .
communicated to the employee,” and (3) “the employee . . . accept[s] the offer by retaining
The court will not address defendants’ argument that Chappelle has not exhausted his
administrative remedies with respect to Count Three because defendants raise this argument for
the first time in reply. See, e.g., Wetherbee v. S. Co., 423 F. App’x 933, 934 (11th Cir. 2011)
(“[A]lthough Wetherbee briefed these issues in detail in his reply brief, we do not consider
arguments raised for the first time in a reply brief.”); Butler v. Cleburne County Comm’n, No.
1:10–cv–2561–PWG, 2012 WL 2357740, at *6 (N.D. Ala. Jan. 17, 2012) (“[T]he court generally
does not consider issues or arguments raised for the first in a reply, for to do so deprives the
non-movant of a fair opportunity to respond.”). The court also pretermits discussion as to
defendants’ alternative argument that any breach of contract claim arising before June 1, 2010, is
subject to dismissal on statute of limitations grounds. As discussed infra, Chappelle’s breach of
contract claims are due to be dismissed for failure to state a claim. If Chappelle hereafter amends
his complaint to state a breach of contract claim, defendants are free to reassert their statute of
employment after he . . . become[s] generally aware of the offer.” Hoffman-La Roche, Inc.
v. Campbell, 512 So. 2d 725, 735 (Ala. 1987). Chappelle, however, has not identified an
employment policy obligating either defendant to pay him a salary increase. Chappelle also
has not alleged that any such policy was communicated to him during his employment or that
he retained employment after becoming aware of the policy. Accordingly, plaintiff’s breach
of contract claim is due to be dismissed.
As to defendants’ second argument, defendants contend that Alabama law forbids
breach of ministerial duty claims against municipalities or municipal officers in their official
capacities. “A ministerial act envisions direct adherence to a governing rule or standard with
a compulsory result. It is performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment
or discretion as to the propriety of the action.” Ex parte Ala. Dep’t of Forensic Sciences, 709
So. 2d 455, 458 (Ala. 1997) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In other words,
a ministerial duty is one prescribed by a governing rule or source of law, the performance of
which involves no exercise of judgment or discretion. Alabama courts have compelled
municipalities and municipal officers to perform their nondiscretionary legal duties. See,
e.g., City of Birmingham v. Pers. Bd. of Jefferson County, 464 So. 2d 100, 103 (Ala. Civ.
App. 1984) (compelling the city and its police chief and personnel officer to enforce a
decision of the personnel board’s grievance committee, which the court characterized as a
“ministerial act”). In a similar case, a teacher sued the Bessemer Board of Education, a State
agency, and its individual members in their official capacities, seeking backpay and a
recalculated future salary based on an alleged miscalculation of a salary increase due to her
under Alabama statute. Ex parte Bessemer, 68 So. 3d at 786. The Alabama Supreme Court
held that the absolute immunity afforded to the State and its agencies under Section 14 of the
Alabama Constitution immunized the Bessemer Board of Education from the plaintiff’s
lawsuit. Id. at 790. However, the Alabama Supreme Court held that the individual members
of the Bessemer Board of Education in their official capacities could be compelled “to
perform their legal duty or to perform a ministerial act.” Id. The Alabama Supreme Court
The amount of the salary increase the Bessemer Board members must pay
[plaintiff] involves obedience to the statute; it does not involve any
discretion. The Bessemer Board members have a legal duty to pay [plaintiff]
the correctly calculated salary increase under the statute and in doing so they
are performing a ministerial act. Therefore, [plaintiff]’s action against the
Bessemer Board members in their official capacities is not an action “against
the State” for § 14 purposes; thus, the Bessemer Board members are not
entitled to § 14 immunity from [plaintiff]’s action to compel them to fulfill
their statutory duty to pay her the appropriate salary increase.
Id. at 790-91. In the instant case, Chappelle asserts a comparable claim and seeks similar
relief but against a municipality and a municipal officer, neither of whom are afforded
absolute State immunity. See Ex parte City of Tuskegee, 932 So. 2d 895, 901 n.3 (Ala. 2005)
(“Absolute immunity does not extend to municipalities or its agents.” (citations omitted)).
Based on the foregoing, the court concludes that Alabama law does not foreclose Chappelle
from seeking to compel the City of Leeds and Mayor Patterson in his official capacity to
perform their nondiscretionary legal duties.
For the foregoing reasons, the court is of the opinion that the Motion for Partial
Dismissal filed by the City of Leeds, (doc. 6), is due to be granted in part and denied in part,
and that the Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 7), filed by Mayor Patterson is due to be granted in part
and denied in part. An Order in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion will be entered
DONE this 25th day of March, 2013.
SHARON LOVELACE BLACKBURN
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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