Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jones v. Lamkin

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

June 29, 2017

MALLORY C. JONES and TROY A. MOSES, Plaintiffs,
v.
RAMONE LAMKIN, individually and in his official capacity as Marshal of the and Magistrate Courts of Richmond County, Georgia, and AUGUSTA-RICHMOND COUNTY, GEORGIA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants fired them in violation of their First Amendment rights. Defendant Augusta moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint. (Doc. 7.) Based on the arguments made at this stage of the litigation, the Court allows the claims against Augusta to proceed and DENIES Augusta's motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are former deputies of the Augusta Marshal's Office. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.) In 2016, Defendant Ramone I Lamkin challenged the incumbent Marshal, Steve Smith. (Id. ¶ 5.) During the campaign, Plaintiffs openly supported Smith. (Id. ¶ 6.) Lamkin ultimately defeated Smith, and following the election, fired Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 11.)

         In response, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Lamkin and Augusta violated Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights because they fired Plaintiffs for supporting Smith. Augusta now moves to dismiss, arguing (1) that Augusta cannot, as a matter of law, be held liable for | Lamkin's actions, and (2) that Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights were not violated.

         II. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002). The Court, however, need not accept legal conclusions as true, only well-pleaded facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) .

         A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plaintiff is required to plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

         Ill. Discussion

         As noted, Augusta argues that Plaintiffs' claims against it should be dismissed for two reasons. First, Augusta argues that it cannot be held liable for Lamkin's actions because Lamkin is not a final policymaker for Augusta. Second, it argues that Plaintiffs' claims fail because Plaintiffs could be fired based on their political patronage.

         A. Augusta's Municipal Liability

          "The Supreme Court has placed strict limitations on municipal liability under § 1983." Grech v. Clayton Cty., 335 F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc). "[A] county 'is liable only when the county's 'official policy' causes a constitutional violation." Id. (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. j Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). There are two methods for establishing an official policy: a plaintiff can show either "(1) an officially promulgated county policy or (2) an unofficial custom or practice of the county shown through the repeated acts of a final policymaker for the county." Id. Under either approach, a plaintiff (1) must show that the local government "has authority and responsibility over the governmental function in issue and (2) must identify those officials who speak with final policymaking authority for that local governmental entity concerning the act alleged to have caused the particular constitutional violation in issue." Id. at 1330.

         Plaintiffs allege that Lamkin was acting as a final policymaker for Augusta when he fired them. Augusta, on the other hand, argues that it has no control over the Marshal's Office and thus cannot be held liable for Lamkin's actions. It contends that, under Georgia law, the Court should treat the Marshal's Office like it would treat a sheriff's office and thus should hold that Lamkin was not acting as a final policymaker for Augusta when he fired Plaintiffs.

         As Augusta points out, sheriffs are often too independent from the counties they serve to be considered policymakers for those counties. See, e.g., Grech, 335 F.3d at 1330-41. In Grech, for example, the Eleventh Circuit addressed 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' functions in Georgia, and the control counties have over sheriffs in Georgia. See id. at 1332-38. In short, the court concluded that the sheriff was not a county policymaker with respect to the relevant ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.