Langford v. Hale County AL Commission et al

Filing 100

ORDER denying 88 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law as set out. Signed by Judge Kristi K. DuBose on 9/16/2016. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B) (cmj)

Download PDF
1 1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA 3 SOUTHERN DIVISION 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ___________________________________ ) ANN LANGFORD, ) ) PLAINTIFF, ) ) VS. ) ) HALE COUNTY ALABAMA COMMISSION; ) HALE COUNTY PROBATE JUDGE, ) ) DEFENDANTS. ) ___________________________________) CIVIL NO. CV14-00070 COURTROOM 5A U.S. FEDERAL COURTHOUSE MOBILE, ALABAMA JUNE 06, 2016 11 12 JURY TRIAL - DAY 01 13 EXCERPTED TRANSCRIPT 14 BEFORE THE HONORABLE KRISTI K. DUBOSE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE 15 APPEARANCES: 16 FOR PLAINTIFF: Charles M. Ingrum, Jr., Esq. P.O. Box 229 Opelika, Alabama 36803 FOR DEFENDANTS: Webb & Eley, P.C. By: Jaime H. Kidd, Esq. By: J. Randall McNeill, Esq. 7475 Halcyon Pointe Drive Montgomery, Alabama 36124 COURT REPORTER: Melanie Wilkins, RMR, CRR Official Court Reporter 113 St. Joseph Street Mobile, Alabama 36602 251) 690-3371 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 2 1 Proceedings reported by machine stenography. 2 Transcript produced by computer. 3 [June 06, 2016, in open court.] 4 [The following is an excerpted transcript. 5 proceedings reported but not transcribed herein.] 6 [Excerpt of direct testimony of Ann Langford.] Prior 7 BY MR. INGRUM: 8 Q. Was Judge Crawford in the office the day she told you? 9 A. He was not. 10 Q. What day were you terminated from the probate office? 11 A. March 11 12 Q. What did Judge Crawford say to you when he called you into 13 his office on the afternoon of March 11 14 A. 15 Your services are no longer needed. 16 replacement will be here in the morning. 17 last day, if you should so choose to come." 18 Q. Did you ask him why you were being terminated? 19 A. Yes, after I got my breath. 20 Q. Did he respond and give you a reason? 21 A. He would not give me a reason. 22 a breach of trust and confidence. 23 needed. 24 your keys. 25 choose to come." th He was gone on his trip. , 2013. th , 2013? He said, "There's been a breach of trust and confidence. Turn in your keys. Your Friday will be your He repeated, "There's been Your services are no longer Your replacement will be here in the morning. Turn in Friday will be your last day, if you should so MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 3 1 Q. Again, we've looked at -- whoops. We looked at page 9 of 2 the Hale County Personnel Policy that outlined the steps 3 necessary in terminating an employee. 4 you -- before you were terminated, did he give you a verbal 5 reprimand? 6 A. No, sir. 7 Q. Did he give you a written reprimand? 8 A. No, he did not. 9 Q. Did he follow any of the procedures set out in the Hale Did Judge Crawford give 10 County Personnel Policy? 11 A. No, sir, he did not. 12 Q. Were you in the probate office the next day, after -- were 13 you there March 12 14 A. Yes, I was. 15 Q. Do you know Patricia Pickens? 16 A. Yes, I do. 17 Q. What time did she start work on March 12 18 A. First thing in the morning. 19 Q. Do you know if she had ever worked in a probate office? 20 A. Not to my knowledge. 21 Q. Do you know where she worked before she came to this 22 probate office? 23 A. Yes. 24 Q. Where was that? 25 A. She worked at the Hale Empowerment Resource Organization, th , 2013? th ? MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 4 1 a nonprofit organization, in Greensboro, commonly known as 2 HERO. 3 Q. Do you know who Laura Barrett's replacement was? 4 A. Yes, I do. 5 Q. Who was that? 6 A. Felicia Williams. 7 Q. What is Felicia William's race? 8 A. African-American. 9 [Further proceedings reported but not transcribed herein.] 10 [Excerpt of testimony of Ann Langford on direct.] 11 BY MR. INGRUM: 12 Q. 13 seen about since then? 14 A. 15 preexisting condition of arthritis, which is true. 16 diagnosed with it only a month, say, prior. 17 earlier, I have had extensive skin cancer and have had the 18 surgery, Alabama Dermatology Clinic in Tuscaloosa. 19 I got this pretty nose. 20 had two episodes with that. 21 keep a check on that. 22 Q. Have you been able to get -- keep a check on that? 23 A. I have not. 24 Q. Do you find that upsetting or disturbing? 25 A. It does. Did you have any other medical conditions that you haven't Yes. Strangely enough, the letter turns me down for the I had been But two years That's why And I'm supposed to have had -- I've And, naturally, I'm supposed to I hope to tend to it, but I have not yet. MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 5 1 Q. How was it in Greensboro, Alabama after you lost your job? 2 How were things? 3 town? 4 A. 5 everybody of all walks of life, most of them by name. 6 seen them all or met them all one way or another, especially in 7 my years in the probate office, and the fact that I've lived 8 there my whole life. 9 humiliating times in my life was Tuesday morning, if not the How did you feel? How was walking around Well, I've lived there my whole life. I think I know I've Probably one of the most embarrassing and 10 evening before on Monday. 11 Q. You are talking about March 11 12 A. March, yes. 13 Q. Of 2013? 14 A. March the 12 15 every day and did my job for years knowing when I opened that 16 door what was it going to be like. 17 exactly what was going to happen in the next few days or 18 months. th . th ? To walk into the place I walked in I knew -- I did not know It was literally walking into the unknown. 19 But there stood Judge Crawford and Ms. Pickens, and I 20 had to face everybody that came in that office that day, people 21 that saw me every day, that I waited on, assisted, my coworkers 22 and customers and attorneys that are in and out of there every 23 day. 24 And, of course, it was -- I either had to tell them 25 in person in front of my colleagues and God Almighty what was MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 6 1 happening. And it's hard. It was embarrassing and 2 humiliating, and that was just that day. 3 For the rest of -- the next several days and weeks, 4 months, everywhere you go people ask what's happening to you, 5 why it happened, details, even phone calls from people, you 6 know, wondering why you are not there. 7 at the probate office of people asking for me. 8 have -- 9 10 MR. McNEILL: I'm sure they got calls They had to Object to that, Your Honor. Move to strike. 11 THE COURT: 12 THE WITNESS: It's overruled. I didn't understand what he -- 13 BY MR. INGRUM: 14 Q. 15 newspaper? 16 A. Oh, yes. 17 Q. Was it talked about at different places that you went 18 around town? 19 A. Yes. 20 Q. Church? 21 A. Yes. 22 Q. Grocery store? 23 A. [Nods head.] 24 Q. Drug store? 25 A. Everywhere. Did the story of you being terminated, was it run in the I was headlines of the newspaper. MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 7 1 Q. Did you try to get your job back with Hale County after 2 Judge Crawford terminated you? 3 A. Yes, I did. 4 Q. I believe we've shown documents where you submitted a 5 grievance and wanted to know why or if you could have your job 6 back? 7 A. I surely did. 8 Q. The letter that we introduced as Bench Book 7, the letter 9 from May 30 th from Webb & Eley to me, the first time you saw 10 detailed, any sort of detail, as to why you were terminated, it 11 said that you had a pattern of failing or refusing to carry out 12 your job duties. 13 Is that true or accurate at all? 14 A. It is absolutely not true. 15 Q. It said that you were not cooperative, cheerful, and 16 productive with Judge Crawford and other staff members. 17 there any truth to that? 18 A. No, sir. Is Not a grain of truth. 19 [End of excerpt of Witness Ann Langford. 20 proceedings reported but not transcribed herein.] 21 THE COURT: 22 MR. INGRUM: 23 have. Further Next witness. Your Honor, that's all the witnesses we We'll rest. 24 THE COURT: Resting. 25 Anything from the defense? MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 8 1 2 MS. KIDD: Your Honor, at this time we'd like to move for a judgment as a matter of law. 3 THE COURT: 4 And, while she does this, why don't you go into this 5 6 room here. It will be about 10, 15 minutes. [Bench conference with Ms. Kidd and Mr. Ingrum present.] 7 THE COURT: 8 MS. KIDD: 9 Then you'll need to come up to sidebar. Okay. Go ahead. Well, Your Honor, I think that the more clear point right now is that there's been very, very little 10 bit of evidence as to the First Amendment claim as to why she 11 was fired in associating with Judge Avery. 12 of evidence, certainly a lot of evidence, about the race claim, 13 but most of the evidence thus far has been about, you know, the 14 due process claim, that she wasn't granted due process. 15 that's a separate issue. 16 17 18 19 THE COURT: Well, Well, as to the political claim, First Amendment claim, I deny your motion. As to the race claim, what evidence do we have that it was race-based other than she was white -- 20 MR. INGRUM: 21 THE COURT: 22 All right. There's been a lot I had a lot of evidence. -- and replaced by a black? You didn't even get in that Ms. Galbreath was replaced by a black. 23 MS. KIDD: 24 MR. INGRUM: 25 THE COURT: She wasn't. She wasn't. That's why you didn't get it in. MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 9 1 MR. INGRUM: They combined the jobs. They took a 2 white and black and put them together for the job, but there 3 was no one hired especially for her job. 4 didn't -- 5 THE COURT: So that's why I If I had known that, I don't think I 6 would have let her testify. 7 replaced by a white -- I mean, a black. 8 9 MR. INGRUM: No. Go ahead. I thought she was The county attorney was. But I'm trying to think with -- I guess part of it is the pretextural 10 portion of it. There's no -- she was white and replaced by 11 someone black. There were other things that really is not in 12 evidence except Tricia was also terminated, which is the state 13 of the evidence now. 14 The pretext of what was done. He has stated he terminated Laura Barrett -- excuse th 15 me -- he terminated Ann Langford on March 11 and that was 16 when he decided to terminate Ann Langford. 17 the replacement in Greene County three weeks earlier. 18 less experience, which is a factor, pretext. 19 or consistently articulated his reasoning for terminating Ann 20 Langford. 21 confidence. 22 reason. Yet he was training She has He never clearly All he would say is she breached trust and Two and a half months later, he comes up with a I think the reason is all pretext for what was done. 23 THE COURT: 24 MS. KIDD: 25 THE COURT: All right. Your Honor -Let me -- I'm taking it under advisement. MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 10 1 It's probably going to go out. 2 on your political. 3 MR. INGRUM: 4 THE COURT: You've got a much better case And I recognize that. I'm not saying you are going to win on 5 it. I'm just saying that -- I mean, if I was looking at all of 6 this, I think the only thing that I could argue is that, well, 7 you know, she supported Avery; he didn't want her in there. 8 That's your case, but there's nothing about race here other 9 than he's black and she's white. 10 MR. INGRUM: 11 THE COURT: I tried to get in what I could. I know, but there's just nothing -- I 12 mean, I'm trying to think it through. 13 throwing it out this second. 14 second, I can't think of anything. 15 "he's not saying the real reason" is what you are saying. 16 not saying the real reason. 17 terminology "pretext," that goes out the window once we go to 18 trial. I'm going to think -- this I understand your whole He's And also, by the way, the So there won't be any jury instructions about pretext. 19 20 That's why I'm not MR. INGRUM: We had a joint agreed jury instruction about it. 21 THE COURT: Well, the Eleventh Circuit says we don't 22 use that once we get to trial. 23 judgment, you don't use the term "pretext" and all that 24 anymore. 25 become evidence of we don't have a shifting burden here. Once you get past summary But I understand what you are saying. It can be MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 11 1 MR. INGRUM: 2 THE COURT: Right. But it can become if he's not telling the 3 truth about why he did that, then you can use that as evidence, 4 that he maybe did it for a wrong reason. 5 MR. INGRUM: And, Your Honor, I would think of it as 6 take political out of it. 7 discriminatory purpose. 8 9 THE COURT: It looks like a cover-up for some Well, no, no, no. Actually, if I were to take the political stuff out of it, we wouldn't be here. 10 MR. INGRUM: 11 THE COURT: And that's not what I'm asking. Because if I just had this -- that's how 12 I'm trying to think of this, if this was solely based on 13 discrimination, this case, you wouldn't have gotten past 14 summary judgment. 15 16 17 And you had all this stuff mixed up. MR. INGRUM: It's hard to divide the political and race line. THE COURT: It's not for me because I don't live in 18 Hale County, and I probably don't understand how it's -- it's 19 obviously not -- well, apparently, it is down race lines, but 20 it's the Democrat party that appears to be down race lines. 21 But, anyway, that's why I let this go to trial because I 22 thought I don't know how that all works there. 23 what I've heard and what the jury has heard so far is he's 24 white -- I mean, he's black and she's white. 25 MR. INGRUM: And her qualifications. But, I mean, Her MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 12 1 qualification being replaced, you have -- 2 THE COURT: She was replaced by somebody that was his 3 treasurer in his political campaign, and he trusted and he 4 wanted that person in there. 5 is the -- 6 7 MR. INGRUM: You know, See, we are stepping right back into political. 8 THE COURT: 9 MR. INGRUM: 10 Now, could he do that? It's all about politics. And I understand. I thought about this as this case was going on. 11 THE COURT: But I'm going to think about it overnight 12 in case you come up with this other case law that says 13 something, but I'm taking it under advisement. 14 the morning, and I'll rule in the morning. 15 cases, I'll keep prolonging it. Remind me in If you give me some I'll read your cases. 16 But you've got witnesses? 17 MS. KIDD: 18 THE COURT: Yes, Your Honor. Okay. And let's see. So I denied on 19 your -- this is for Karen, who is not in the courtroom. 20 listening. 21 advisement on the race discrimination. Denied on the First Amendment. 22 Do you have any other motion? 23 MS. KIDD: 24 THE COURT: 25 MR. INGRUM: Carried under Not at this time. You don't have anything, of course. No, Your Honor. MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 She's 13 1 2 THE COURT: All right. Let's start your case. Bring them back. 3 [End of excerpt. Further proceedings reported, but not 4 transcribed herein.] 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371 14 1 2 3 4 5 6 STATE OF ALABAMA) : COUNTY OF MOBILE) ANN LANGFORD vs. HALE COUNTY ALABAMA COMMISSION; HALE COUNTY PROBATE JUDGE. CASE NO. CV14-00070 I, Melanie Wilkins, do hereby certify that the above 7 and foregoing transcript of proceedings in the matter 8 aforementioned was taken by me in machine shorthand, and the 9 questions and answers thereto were reduced to writing under my 10 personal supervision using computer-aided transcription, and 11 that the foregoing represents a true and correct transcript of 12 the proceedings upon said hearing. 13 14 I further certify that I am neither counsel nor 15 related to the parties to the action, nor am I in anywise 16 interested in the result of said cause. 17 Pages 1 to 14, inclusive. 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 s/Melanie Wilkins Melanie Wilkins Registered Merit Reporter Certified Realtime Reporter Official Court Reporter United States District Court Southern District of Alabama 113 St. Joseph Street Mobile, Alabama 36602 (251) 690-3371 25 MELANIE WILKINS, RMR, CRR, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER P.O. BOX 560, MOBILE, ALABAMA 36602 (251) 690-3371

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?