Patton et al v. Wayne County, Mississippi et al
ORDER denying 151 Motion for Reconsideration re 150 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment, denying 153 Motion to Alter Judgment re 150 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Keith Starrett on 2/13/2018 (srd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
MICHAEL PATTON, et al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:16-CV-186-KS-MTP
WAYNE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Reconsideration  filed by Plaintiffs,
and the Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (“Motion to Alter”)  filed by Defendant Wayne
County, Mississippi. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court finds that neither motion is well taken and that both should be denied.
Sheriff Jody Ashley (“Sheriff Ashley”) was elected Sheriff of Wayne County, Mississippi,
in 2015, and took office in January 2016. Plaintiffs Michael Patton (“Patton”), Patrick Johnson
(“Johnson”), Chartaviaunca Odom (“Odom”), Dawatha Pickens (“Pickens”), Mamie Turner
(“Turner”), Reginald Evans (“Evans”), and DeAnthony Jones (“Jones”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”)
were employed by the Sheriff Department under the previous administration headed by Sheriff
Darryl Woodson (“Sheriff Woodson”). Plaintiffs are all African American. Prior to Sheriff
Ashley taking office, Plaintiffs were informed that they would not have a job under the Ashley
On November 3, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court against Sheriff Ashley1 and Wayne
County, Mississippi (the “County”), bringing claims of racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 and Title VII, as well as claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Equal Protection
Dismissed by Stipulation .
Clause. The County filed its Motion for Summary Judgment  on October 31, 2017. The
Court issued its Order  granting in part and denying in part the motion on January 10, 2018.
At issue in the current motions are the Court’s ruling dismissing the claims of Patton, Odom,
Johnson, and Everett, and its ruling regarding the liability of the County.
Standard of Review
“A motion asking the court to reconsider a prior ruling is evaluated . . . as a motion . . .
under Rule 59(e) . . . [when] filed within twenty-eight days after the entry of judgment . . . .”
Demahy v. Schwarz Pharma, Inc., 702 F.3d 177, 182 n.2 (5th Cir. 2012). Both the Motion for
Reconsideration  and the Motion to Alter  fall within this twenty-eight day period.
“A Rule 59(e) motion calls into question the correctness of a judgment.” Templet v.
Hydrochem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478 (5th Cir. 2004). There are three grounds for altering or
amending a judgment under Rule 59(e): “(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the
availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law
or prevent manifest injustice.” Williamson Pounders Architects, P.C. v. Tunica Cnty., Miss., 681
F.Supp.2d 766, 767 (N.D. Miss. 2008). Rule 59(e) motions are “not the proper vehicle for
rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before the
entry of judgment,” Templet, 367 F.3d at 478, and they “should not be used to . . . re-urge matters
that have already been advanced by a party.” Nationalist Movement v. Town of Jena, 321 F.App’x
359, 364 (5th Cir. 2009). Reconsideration of a previous order is “an extraordinary remedy that
should be used sparingly.” Id. Before filing a Rule 59(e) motion, parties “should evaluate whether
what may seem to be a clear error of law is in fact simply a point of disagreement” with the Court.
Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D. Miss. 1990).
Motion for Reconsideration 
Deposition of Mike Mozingo
The first argument Plaintiffs make in favor of reconsideration is that the Court erred in
considering the testimony of Chief Mike Mozingo. Plaintiffs contend that it was error for the
Court to consider Mozingo’s testimony as to the reasons why Plaintiffs were not rehired because
the decision came from Sheriff Ashley and not Mozingo. Plaintiffs, however, never made this
argument in their response or sur-response, and it will not be considered now. See Templet, 367
F.3d at 478 (holding that Rule 59(e) motions are not the vehicle to assert arguments that could
have been offered prior to judgment being entered).
Plaintiffs argue that the Court should not have considered the fact that there is no dispute
that Patton cannot make a prima facie case of racial discrimination under § 1981 and Title VII and,
even if the Court did consider this failure, Patton still adduced evidence showing that he had been
treated differently than white deputies.
The Court acknowledged the apparent concession of the County that a prima facie case
had been made by Plaintiffs and noted its confusion because, after the concession, the County went
on to argue that certain elements of each Plaintiff’s prima facie case was not met. (See Order 
at pp. 4-5.) The Court went on to address the arguments that should have properly been directed
at the prima facie case of each Plaintiff, because Plaintiffs had notice of these arguments and an
opportunity to address them and because judicial economy was best served by addressing all the
arguments at once. At best, Plaintiffs could argue that the Court improperly raised an issue sua
sponte without given them notice and a reasonable time to respond as required by Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56(f).2 However, that argument would fail because Plaintiffs had notice of the
fatal flaw in Patton’s prima facie case and actually addressed that flaw in response. (See Response
 at p. 8.)
As explained in the Court’s previous Order , Plaintiffs’ discrimination claims under
§ 1981 and Title VII require that, before any other analysis is made, a prima facie case of
discrimination must be made. See Byers v. Dallas Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 425 (5th
Cir. 2001). If a plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case, the discrimination claim fails and
must be dismissed. See id. One of the elements of a prima facie case of discrimination requires
that a plaintiff be “replaced by someone outside of the protected group.” Id. at 426.
Patton’s protected group is African Americans. It is undisputed that Patton was replaced
by an African American.3 Patton failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, and his
discrimination claims were therefore rightfully dismissed. Any other evidence that Patton was
treated differently than white deputies is irrelevant to the analysis of these claims.
Plaintiffs argue that the Sheriff Ashley’s opinion of Johnson’s work ethic from previously
working with him and the fact that Johnson often went on duty at home and stayed there for hours
have not been sufficiently proven by the evidence, and that summary judgment should not have
been granted against him. Plaintiffs once again display their misunderstanding of the McDonnell
Plaintiffs do not raise this argument in their Motion for Reconsideration .
Plaintiffs once again assert the argument, rejected but unaddressed in the Court’s previous Order , that Alfred
Hill, the African American who replaced Patton, was only hired because of his political support of Sheriff Ashley.
That, however, would be discrimination on the basis of political affiliation, not race, and is not a claim that has ever
been brought in this case.
After a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case of discrimination, the employer must provide
a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination. See Byers, 209 F.3d at 425. The
plaintiff must then prove that that reason is pretext. See id. There is no burden on the employer
to prove his reason is not pretext. See id.
Here, the County gave two reasons for not re-hiring Johnson: (1) Sheriff Ashley’s previous
experience with his work ethic, and (2) the fact that he would clock in and stay at home. (See
Order  at p. 6.) Though Plaintiffs offered Johnson’s own declaration to rebut Sheriff Ashley’s
comments as to his past work experience, there was no evidence introduced to rebut the assertion
that Johnson would often work at home or that any white employee was allowed to work from
home.4 Therefore, summary judgment was also appropriate against Johnson.
Plaintiffs argue that the Court must reconsider its dismissal of Odom’s claims because,
though she indisputably cannot make out a prima facie case of discrimination, the County
conceded the prima facie argument for purposes of its summary judgment motion. As already
explained by the Court, see supra II.B.2, the Court considered the apparent concession by the
County and found that there was good cause to analyze Plaintiffs’ prima facie cases regardless.
Here, Odom had notice of the flaw in her prima facie case and an opportunity to respond. There
is no dispute as to the fact that she was replaced by an African American, a member of her own
protected class. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate.
This was one of the issues for which Mozingo’s testimony was used. As previously stated, Plaintiffs did not
originally argue that Mozingo’s testimony should be disregarded because he was the decision maker and it will not be
The Court dismissed Everett’s claims of discrimination after Plaintiffs failed to rebut the
issues Sheriff Ashley testified to having with his job performance. (See Order  at pp. 10-11.)
Instead of attempting to rebut this reason given for Johnson’s termination, Plaintiffs originally
argued that the jury should decide its credibility. As the Court pointed out in its Order ,
though, Plaintiffs have the burden under the McDonnell burden-shifting analysis to adduce
evidence showing that the purported reason is untrue or that, if true, race was still a motivating
factor. See Keelan v. Majesco Software, Inc., 407 F.3d 332, 341 (5th Cir. 2005) (quoting Rachid
v. Jack In The Box, Inc., 376 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2004)). Though Plaintiffs attempt to argue
against this reason now, the Court will consider no arguments that could and should have been
brought in their original response. See Templet, 367 F.3d at 478. As such, summary judgment
was appropriate against Everett.
Therefore, because the Court finds no error in its previous Order , the Motion for
Reconsideration  will be denied in its entirety.
Motion to Alter 
The County makes two arguments under its Motion to Alter . First, they argue that
the Court’s rulings as to Patton, Johnson, Odom, and Everett’s § 1983 claims conflict with its
rulings as to their Title VII claims. The Court does not disagree that these rulings might be
inconsistent, but the County never argued the merits of Plaintiffs § 1983 claims in its original
motion nor did it ever suggest that a dismissal of the Title VII claims mandated a dismissal of the
parallel § 1983 claims.5 Instead, the County focused its arguments around whether it could be
The County did briefly touch upon this argument in its Reply , but arguments presented for the first time in a
reply brief are not considered and, even if the Court were to consider these arguments, they were presented in only a
liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services,6 and whether Sheriff Ashley was a final
policymaker of the County so that his decision to not rehire them created liability for the County.7
(See Memo. in Support  at pp. 28-33). The Court will not alter its judgment based upon
arguments not presented to it in the original motion.
The County also argues in its Motion to Alter  that the Court must alter its judgment
because Sheriff Ashley was not a final policymaker. The County admitted in its original motion
that it could be liable if “a single act of a final policymaker for the County was behind their alleged
constitutional deprivation.” (Memo. in Support  at p. 31.) While the Court admits that it was
not clear that it was analyzing the County’s arguments under this rule, as stated in Woodard v.
Andrus, 419 F.3d 348, 352 (5th Cir. 2005), the Court clearly found the argument that Sheriff
Ashley was not a “final policymaker” at the relevant times “specious at best,” reasoning that even
if he were not,8 he then made the decision to ratify the termination of the Plaintiffs and thereby
creating liability for the County. (See Order  at p. 12.) The County brings forth arguments
against ratification in its Motion to Alter , but again, these arguments were never presented
to the Court in its original motion.9
Because the County wishes the Court to alter its judgment based upon arguments never
presented in its original briefing, the Court finds that the Motion to Alter  should be denied.
436 U.S. 658, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978).
The only § 1983 claim the County went into any detail for in its original motion was the one brought by Evans and
is not at issue in the Motion to Alter .
The Court never accepted the County’s assertion that Sheriff Ashley was not a final policymaker.
The County’s argument that Sheriff Ashley’s decision to not rehire Plaintiffs was not done in his capacity as sheriff
is confusing, as the County also argues that some of the Plaintiffs were not technically terminated but rather not rehired
by Sheriff Ashley. Regardless, the Court does not find their argument compelling and would need further authority
cited if the County raises this argument again at trial.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Motion for Reconsideration
 is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Motion to Alter  is denied.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED, on this, the 13th day of February, 2018.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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?