197 F.3d 765 (5th Cir. 1999), 98-30978, Kipps v Caillier

Docket Nº:98-30978
Citation:197 F.3d 765
Party Name:REXFORD KIPPS, CAROL KIPPS AND KYLE KIPPS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, v. JAMES CAILLIER, RAY AUTHEMENT, NELSON J. SCHEXNAYDER, JR., AND NELSON STOKLEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
Case Date:December 06, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 765

197 F.3d 765 (5th Cir. 1999)

REXFORD KIPPS, CAROL KIPPS AND KYLE KIPPS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

JAMES CAILLIER, RAY AUTHEMENT, NELSON J. SCHEXNAYDER, JR., AND NELSON STOKLEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

No. 98-30978

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 6, 1999

Page 766

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana

Before Wiener, DeMOSS and Parker, Circuit Judges.

Robert M. Parker, Circuit Judge

Plaintiffs appeal the district court's orders denying their motion in limine, dismissing the case for failure to state a claim and granting defendants' motion for summary judgment. We VACATE in part and AFFIRM in part.

FACTUAL HISTORY AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

Rexford Kipps ("Kipps") was an assistant football coach at the University of Southwestern Louisiana ("USL") for approximately eleven years. Kipps's son, Kyle Kipps ("Kyle"), was a talented football player in southern Louisiana. Kyle was actively recruited by several universities in 1996 and 1997.

In March of 1996, Nelson Stokley ("Stokley"), USL's head football coach,

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told Kipps that if Kyle did not attend USL, then he was to attend a college or university outside of Louisiana. Stokley warned Kipps that under no circumstances was Kyle to attend a Louisiana university other than USL.

On February 2, 1997, Kyle notified Stokley that he had orally committed to attend Louisiana State University ("LSU") on a football scholarship and that this commitment would soon be reduced to writing. The next day, Stokley advised Kipps that he was to forbid Kyle to memorialize the oral commitment to play football for LSU. Kipps responded that he would not (indeed, could not) command his son to refuse to reduce the verbal commitment to writing.

Based on Kyle's decision to attend LSU, Stokley terminated Kipps's employment with USL. In a February 20, 1997, letter, Nelson Schexnayder, Jr. ("Schexnayder"), USL Director of Athletics, advised Kipps, based on Stokley's recommendation, that Kipps's employment with USL would be terminated effective June 30, 1997. Ray Authement ("Authement"), President of USL, was provided with a copy of this letter and subsequently approved Kipps's termination. Additionally, James Caillier ("Caillier"), President of the Board of Trustees for Louisiana State Colleges and Universities approved Kipps's termination.

On July 22, 1997, plaintiffs instituted an action against Stokley, Schexnayder, Authement and Caillier, in their individual capacities, asserting, inter alia, constitutional claims and Louisiana state law claims. On August 28, 1997, defendants Stokley, Schexnayder and Authement filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This motion was amended shortly thereafter to add Caillier.

On October 31, 1997, the district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994) and granted defendants' motion as to the pendent state law claims under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315.6 (West 1999) and La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23:631 (West 1999).

Stokley, Schexnayder and Authement next filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, asserting, inter alia, that the at-will employment status of Kipps precluded any wrongful termination action; that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity; and that Kipps's termination was justified due to the effect that Kyle's choice of colleges would have on USL's ability to recruit athletes and on alumni relations. The next day, these defendants also filed a motion for sanctions against plaintiffs' counsel. On March 27, 1998, Caillier filed a summary judgment motion asserting, inter alia, that he did not participate in Kipps's termination and that Kipps's at-will employment status precluded a wrongful termination claim. Plaintiffs moved to oppose the summary judgment motions and the motion for sanctions. In addition, plaintiffs filed motions in limine to exclude, inter alia, the following: (1) the qualified immunity defense and (2) the justification defense.

The district court denied plaintiffs' motions in limine and granted Stokley, Schexnayder and Authement's motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court granted appellee Caillier's motion for summary judgment on similar grounds and granted defendants' motion for sanctions against plaintiffs' counsel.

Plaintiffs invoke the jurisdiction of this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1994) and present the following issues for interlocutory appeal:

1. Did the district court commit reversible error in dismissing plaintiffs' claims based on the theory that "Qualified Immunity" exempted the defendants from liability?

2. Did the district court commit reversible error in refusing to grant plaintiffs' Motion to Exclude any Evidence as to the Defense of Justification?

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3. Did the district court commit reversible error when it sanctioned plaintiffs' counsel?

4. Did the district court commit reversible error in dismissing plaintiffs' pendant state law claims under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315.6 (West 1999)?

SECTION 1983 CLAIM

The district court granted defendants' summary judgment and dismissed plaintiffs' constitutional claims based on the doctrine of "Qualified Immunity." We review a grant of a summary judgment de novo. See Steadman v. Texas Rangers, 179 F.3d 360, 366 (5th Cir. 1999). Summary judgment shall be entered in favor of the moving party if the record, taken as a whole, "show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A factual dispute is "genuine" where a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Crowe v. Henry, 115 F.3d 294, 296 (5th Cir. 1997). If the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the...

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