Jones et al v. Lamkin

Filing 18

ORDER denying 7 Motion to Dismiss and Lifts the stay of discovery in this case. Signed by Chief Judge J. Randal Hall on 6/29/17. (cmr)

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IN THE UNITED FOR THE STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA AUGUSTA DIVISION MALLORY C. JONES and TROY A. * MOSES, * * Plaintiffs, * • v, * RAMONE LAMKIN, individually and in his official capacity 117-003 * as CV * Marshal of the Civil and Magistrate Courts of Richmond County, Georgia, and AUGUSTA- * * RICHMOND COUNTY, * GEORGIA, Defendants. * ORDER Plaintiffs of their dismiss First allege that Amendment Plaintiffs' Defendants rights. fired them Defendant complaint. (Doc. Augusta 7.) claims against Augusta to proceed and violation moves Based arguments made at this stage of the litigation, the in on to the the Court allows DENIES Augusta's Augusta Marshal's motion. I. Plaintiffs Office. Lamkin (Doc. are 1, Background former Compl. challenged the deputies 11 3-4.) of the In 2016, incumbent Marshal, Steve Defendant Smith. Ramone (Id. 1 5.) During (Id. SI 6.) election, the campaign, First fired Plaintiffs. that Amendment Lamkin's actions, as and and now moves matter (2) that Smith. and following the lawsuit they a supported 11.) Augusta because Augusta cannot, If 5, filed this Lamkin rights Smith. Augusta (Id. Plaintiffs alleging supporting that openly Lamkin ultimately defeated Smith, In response, § 1983, Plaintiffs violated fired to of under law, 42 U.S.C. Plaintiffs' Plaintiffs dismiss, be arguing (1) liable for held Plaintiffs' for First Amendment rights were not violated. II. Legal Standard In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Rhodes, all 416 U.S. facts inferences 232, 236 (1974). alleged in the complaint in Hoffman-Pugh The Court, the v. light Ramsey, however, 312 Scheuer v. The Court must accept as true and construe favorable F.3d need not only well-pleaded facts. 79 most the 1222, accept Ashcroft v. to the 1225 legal all reasonable plaintiff. (11th Cir. conclusions Iqbal, 556 U.S. See 2002). as 662, true, 678- (2009) . A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" 550 U.S. 544, Id. at 678 570 (2007)). (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, The plaintiff is required to plead "factual content inference that alleged." that Id. ^probability the allows the defendant "The court is but draw liable plausibility requirement,' to for standard it asks the the is for As noted, more cannot not a be Augusta argues that Plaintiffs' final Plaintiffs' held First, liable for Lamkin's policymaker for Augusta. claims fail akin than to a a sheer Id. Discussion should be dismissed for two reasons. it misconduct not possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ill. reasonable because claims against it Augusta argues that actions because Second, Plaintiffs it could Lamkin argues be fired is that based on their political patronage. A. Augusta's Municipal Liability "The Supreme municipal F.3d has 1329 only (11th when Cir. the Servs. , 436 U.S. establishing an 694 official officially unofficial repeated an 658, 2003) Id. acts of a (en on Clayton Cty., 335 "[A] policy' (citing Monell v. policy: promulgated final limitations banc). 'official (1978)). custom or practice strict Grech v. county's constitutional violation." "(1) placed liability under § 1983." 1326, liable Court There are a plaintiff county of the policymaker causes a Dep't of Soc. two methods can policy county county 'is show or for either (2) an shown through the for the county." Id. Under either approach, a plaintiff (1) must show that the local government "has governmental officials local function who speak governmental caused at authority the in issue with final entity particular and responsibility and (2) must policymaking concerning constitutional the over identify authority act in those for that to have issue." Id. alleged violation the 1330. Plaintiffs policymaker other Office contends Marshal's that Lamkin Augusta for hand, and allege when he argues thus that, cannot that like it be under Office should hold that has held Georgia fired no was liable law, not acting them. control for the it would treat Lamkin was a over the Lamkin's a final on the Marshal's actions. should sheriff's as a Augusta, Court acting as treat office final It the and thus policymaker for Augusta when he fired Plaintiffs. As Augusta points out, sheriffs are often too independent from the those Grech, counties they serve counties. for See, example, e.g., the to be considered policymakers Grech, Eleventh 335 F.3d Circuit at for 1330-41. addressed In whether a Georgia sheriff was a policymaker for the county he served when performing certain law-enforcement duties. The court looked at, among other things, how state law treats sheriffs in Georgia, sheriffs' in functions Georgia, over sheriffs in Georgia. court concluded that the and See id. sheriff the control at 1332-38. was not a counties In short, county have the policymaker with respect state closely control id. to the at relevant regulates sheriffs' law-enforcement sheriffs, performance of and because Assembly, counties law-enforcement local legislation enacted by do duties. the not See (Doc. the treated Marshal's Office should be because the Marshal is elected, because he contends that it in (Id. ) the Georgia General Augusta argues that these "exact same principles apply to the Office of the Marshal." role because 1332-1348. Citing and duties the But has Court Marshal is elected, law-enforcement law-enforcement law is like sheriff's office enforcement unpersuaded without powers. Augusta control and absolutely no duties at this makes personnel decisions, duties, a It argues that because he chooses his deputies, "has no authority or Marshal's the some 7-1 at 4.) more, is that he is not a policymaker for Augusta. and functions." stage. That the and performs some insufficient to show The Court thus DENIES Augusta's motion on this issue. B. Plaintiffs' An Political Patronage elected official may fire an employee based on the employee's political patronage only when "political affiliation is a reasonably question." 2012) appropriate requirement for the job in Underwood v. Harkins, 698 F.3d 1335, 1339 (11th Cir. (citing O'Hare Truck Serv., Inc. v. City of Northlake, 518 U.S. 712, 714 (1996)). In a typical case, whether an employer may terminate an question of fact. 1338, 1349 approach (11th based on employee based on political Leslie v. Hancock Cty. Cir. 2013) . the But statutory Bd. courts patronage of Educ, apply authority of a an ego and thus political views. are subject to "categorical when local law to Id. Augusta argues that deputy marshals alter a 720 F.3d employee the employee is empowered by the relevant state or act as the alter ego of her employer." is serve as the Marshal's dismissal based on their Augusta contends that the deputy marshals are "empowered to enter into business transactions for the marshal," and that "[a]ny transaction within the scope duties may be acted upon by his deputy." Augusta has authority not pointed providing such to any the Marshal's (Doc. 7-1 at 6.) statute broad-sweeping of or powers. other But binding Although the legislature has indicated that deputy marshals carry out many of the Marshal's Court is unconvinced, categorical motion on responsibilities, approach. this issue. without see more, Accordingly, 1974 that Ga. it Laws 2417, should the apply a the Court DENIES Augusta's IV. The Court DENIES Conclusion Augusta's motion to dismiss (doc. 7) and LIFTS the stay of discovery in this case. ORDER ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia this ^^v^ciay of June, 2017. J. KAWe^iTHALL/' CHIEF JUDGE united/states DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

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