United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
ERIKA J. LOCKETTE, Plaintiff,
COLUMBUS CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT, Defendant.
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Lockette is an employee of the Juvenile Court of Muscogee
County. She brought this action against the Columbus
Consolidated Government (“CCG”), claiming that
she was subjected to race discrimination and retaliation in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 200e-17 (“Title
VII”). CCG asserts that it is not Lockette's
employer and seeks summary judgment on this
ground. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion (ECF No. 23) is granted.
judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
the Court's local rules, a party moving for summary
judgment must attach to its motion “a separate and
concise statement of the material facts to which the movant
contends there is no genuine dispute to be tried.” M.D.
Ga. R. 56. Those facts must be supported by the record. The
respondent to a summary judgment motion must respond
“to each of the movant's numbered material
facts.” Id. “All material facts
contained in the movant's statement which are not
specifically controverted by specific citation to particular
parts of materials in the record shall be deemed to have been
admitted, unless otherwise inappropriate.” Id.
submitted a statement of undisputed material facts with its
summary judgment motion. Lockette, who is proceeding pro se,
received a notice regarding the significance of CCG's
summary judgment motion and of her opportunity to respond to
the motion and statement of material facts. Notice to Pro Se
Party of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 24. Though Lockette filed
a response brief and one exhibit, she did not respond to
CCG's statement of material facts. Therefore, CCG's
statement of material facts is deemed admitted pursuant to
Local Rule 56. The Court reviewed CCG's citations to the
record to determine if a genuine factual dispute exists.
See Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1269 (11th Cir.
2008). The Court also reviewed Lockette's response brief
and attached “Timeline of Discrimination” so that
it could understand Lockette's arguments. The unsworn
“Timeline of Discrimination” suggests that
Lockette sought assistance from CCG's human resources
when she encountered difficulties at work (to no avail), but
it does not contain any assertions to suggest that CCG was
her employer and thus would not create a genuine fact dispute
on this issue even if it were reduced to admissible form.
Court recognizes that Lockette asserts that she could prove
her case if she were given a hearing. But Lockette does not
argue that she is unable to present facts essential to
justify her opposition; she simply argues that she
“cannot defend against the many verbose motions brought
by Defendant(s) many attorneys without a hearing.”
Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF
No. 25. The Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary to
decide the issues raised by CCG's summary judgment
a consolidated city-county government. The Juvenile Court is
under the Muscogee County Superior Court, and it is run by
the Juvenile Court Judge. Kennon Aff. ¶ 2, ECF No. 23-3.
Lockette was employed by the Juvenile Court, not CCG.
Id. ¶ 4. The Juvenile Court Judge had authority
over the terms and conditions of Lockette's employment
Id. ¶ 5. Lockette was hired by the Juvenile
Court Director on behalf of the Juvenile Court Judge.
Id. ¶ 9. The Juvenile Court Judge made
decisions regarding the operation and organization of his
staff, including whom to place in staff positions and how to
discipline employees for infractions. Id.
¶¶ 10-11, 13, 16-17. Although Lockette's
benefits and health insurance were through CCG, CCG did not
have any control over the supervision of Lockette, and her
salary was paid by a state grant and not CCG funds.
Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Lockette had access to
CCG's “fair treatment process, ” but
CCG's role with regard to Juvenile Court employees is not
binding on the Juvenile Court, and CCG does not have
authority to overturn employment decisions made by the
Juvenile Court judge. Hollowell Aff. ¶ 9, ECF No. 23-2.
VII makes it unlawful for an employer to
discriminate against an employee with respect to the terms
and conditions of her employment. 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a)(1). An employee may only bring a Title VII action
against her employer. Peppers v. Cobb Cty.,
835 F.3d 1289, 1297 (11th Cir. 2016). The question for the
Court is whether Lockette presented evidence to create a
genuine fact dispute that CCG is her employer. She did not.
juvenile courts are authorized under the Georgia Constitution
and created by state statute. Ga. Const. art. VI, § 1,
¶ I (“The judicial power of the state shall be
vested exclusively in the following classes of courts:
magistrate courts, probate courts, juvenile courts, state
courts, superior courts, Court of Appeals, and Supreme
Court.”); Ga. Const. art. VI, § 1, ¶ VI
(“The state shall be divided into judicial circuits,
each of which shall consist of not less than one county. Each
county shall have at least one superior court, magistrate
court, a probate court, and, where needed, a state court and
a juvenile court.”); O.C.G.A. § 15-11-50(a)
(“There is created a juvenile court in every county in
the state.”). Juvenile court judges are generally
appointed by “a majority of the judges of the superior
court in each circuit.” O.C.G.A. § 15-11-50(b).
State law sets the qualifications, training requirements, and
other rules for juvenile court judges. O.C.G.A. §§
15-11-51 to 15-11-59. Juvenile court judges are paid in part
by state grants. O.C.G.A. § 15-11-52(c).
law provides that juvenile court judges “shall have the
authority to appoint clerks and any other [necessary]
personnel.” O.C.G.A. § 15-11-63(a). And, juvenile
court judges are responsible for fixing the “salary,
tenure, compensation, and all other conditions of employment,
with the approval of the governing authority of the
county.” O.C.G.A. § 15-11-63(b). Juvenile court
employee salaries are typically paid out of county funds,
id., though Lockette's salary was paid from a
state grant. The power granted to counties by the Georgia
Constitution does not extend to “[a]ction affecting any
court or the personnel thereof.” Ga. Const. art. IX,
§ 2, ¶ I(c)(7). Based on this authority, the Court
is satisfied that the Juvenile Court of Muscogee County is
separate from CCG.
though the Juvenile Court and CCG are separate entities,
Lockette could still be considered an employee of CCG if she
established that CCG was her joint employer. A “joint
employer” finding recognizes that the two are separate
but “collaborated to jointly employ an
individual.” Peppers, 835 F.3d at 1299.
“[W]hen considering whether two governmental
subdivisions are joint employers, [the courts] must remain
mindful of the state's expressed determination that the
agencies and subdivisions of government are divided and
separated.” Id. “The test for
determining whether two entities acted as joint employers is
relatively straightforward: ‘The basis of the finding
is simply that one employer while contracting in good faith
with an otherwise independent company, has retained for
itself sufficient control of the terms and conditions of
employment of the employees who are employed by the other
employer. Thus, the joint employer concept recognizes that