43 F.3d 609 (11th Cir. 1995), 94-8097, Parks v. City of Warner Robins, Ga.

Docket Nº:94-8097.
Citation:43 F.3d 609
Party Name:Brenda A. PARKS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF WARNER ROBINS, GEORGIA, A body politic acting under the authority of the Constitution of the State of Georgia and the Laws of Georgia, the City of Warner Robins, City Council, A Council created under the Laws of the State of Georgia, Ed Martin, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Warner
Case Date:January 26, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 609

43 F.3d 609 (11th Cir. 1995)

Brenda A. PARKS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF WARNER ROBINS, GEORGIA, A body politic acting under

the authority of the Constitution of the State of Georgia

and the Laws of Georgia, the City of Warner Robins, City

Council, A Council created under the Laws of the State of

Georgia, Ed Martin, in his official capacity as Mayor of the

City of Warner Robins, and in his individual capacity,

Curtis E. Dempsey, in his official capacity as a member of

the City Council, and in his individual capacity, William W.

Douglas, in his official capacity as a member of the City

Council, and in his individual capacity, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 94-8097.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 26, 1995

Page 610

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 611

Linwood Robert Lovett, Paul R. Ayerbe, Macon, GA, for appellant.

J. Lewis Sapp, Kelly Michael Hundley, Atlanta, GA, for appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Before EDMONDSON and BIRCH, Circuit Judges, and HILL, Senior Circuit Judge.

BIRCH, Circuit Judge:

In this appeal, we consider for the first time in our circuit whether a city's anti-nepotism policy denies the fundamental right to marry protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, infringes the right of intimate association implicit in the First Amendment, or has a disparate impact on women in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court held that the anti-nepotism policy is constitutional. We AFFIRM.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff-appellant Brenda Parks is a Sergeant in the Special Investigative Unit of the Warner Robins Police Department, where she has worked since August, 1984. In October, 1989, Parks became engaged to A.J. Mathern, a Captain in the Criminal Investigative Unit of the Warner Robins Police Department. Mathern also began working for the Warner Robins Police Department in August, 1984, approximately two weeks before Parks arrived. Both Parks and Mathern hold supervisory positions in the police department.

Mathern discussed his plans to marry Parks with George Johnson, Chief of Police for Warner Robins, who informed Mathern that the two would be in violation of Warner Robins' anti-nepotism policy. Defendant-appellees City of Warner Robins, its mayor and city council ("Warner Robins") adopted the anti-nepotism policy as a city ordinance in 1985. 1 The anti-nepotism policy prohibits

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relatives of city employees in supervisory positions from working in the same department. Warner Robins, Ga., Code Sec. 18-3(d). The prohibition does not extend to nonsupervisory employees, nor does it prevent relatives of supervisory employees from working in other departments of the city. Johnson told Mathern that if the two married, the less-senior Parks would have to leave the police department. Rather than losing her job, Parks postponed the wedding and brought the instant lawsuit; Parks and Mathern have remained engaged, but unmarried, for over four years.

Arguing that Warner Robins' anti-nepotism policy infringed her First Amendment right of intimate association by conditioning her employment on the nonassertion of her right to marry, Parks sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2201. Parks also contended that the policy violated both the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying her fundamental right to marry and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by having a disparate impact upon women. On motion for summary judgment, the district court found that the policy was not a direct restraint on the right to marry; consequently, the court applied rational basis scrutiny to the policy and found that the statute was constitutional under both the First Amendment and Due Process Clause. The district court dismissed Parks' Equal Protection Clause claim after finding that she had "set forth no evidence that would indicate that the alleged unequal application [of the policy] was in any way the result of purposeful discrimination." Parks v. City of Warner Robins, 841 F.Supp. 1205, 1213 (M.D.Ga.1994). Finding no constitutional infirmities in the challenged policy, the district court granted Warner Robins' summary judgment motion.

II. DISCUSSION

On appeal, Parks argues that the district court erred by granting summary judgment to Warner Robins. Specifically, Parks realleges her substantive due process right to marry, her right of intimate association, and her disparate impact claims. A district court may grant summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the nonmoving party has "failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same legal standards used by the district

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court. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1117 (11th Cir.1993). Additionally, we note that we may affirm the district court's decision on any adequate ground, even if it is other than the one on which the court actually relied. Id.

  1. Substantive Due Process

    Parks argues that Warner Robins' anti-nepotism policy violates her substantive due process rights by denying her the fundamental right to marry. That the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is well established. See, e.g., Planned Parenthood v. Casey, --- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2805, 120 L.Ed.2d 674 (1992); Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 383-85, 98 S.Ct. 673, 679-81, 54 L.Ed.2d 618 (1978); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967); McCabe v. Sharrett, 12 F.3d 1558, 1562 (11th Cir.1994). 2

    Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has held that not every statute "which relates in any way to the incidents of or prerequisites for marriage" must be subjected to strict scrutiny. Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 386, 98 S.Ct. at 681. "To the contrary, reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere with decisions to enter into the marital relationship may legitimately be imposed." Id. (emphasis added). Therefore, whether we examine this ordinance under strict scrutiny or rational basis analysis depends upon whether the statute "significantly interfere[s]" with the decision to marry.

    A statutory classification must interfere "directly and substantially" with the right to marry before it violates the Due Process Clause. Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, 98 S.Ct. at 681. In Loving, the seminal case, the Court struck down as violative of the "freedom of choice to marry" an anti-miscegenation statute that voided interracial marriages and made them punishable as felonies. Loving, 388 U.S. at 4, 12, 87 S.Ct. at 1819-20, 1824. The statute at issue in Loving also provided that residents of Virginia who left the state to enter into interracial marriages were subject to criminal punishment upon returning to Virginia. Id. at 4, 87 S.Ct. at 1819. Similarly, in Zablocki, the Court ruled unconstitutional a state statute that required Wisconsin residents with child support obligations to obtain a court order before they could marry. Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, 390-91, 98 S.Ct. at 681, 683. Under the statute, courts could grant such permission only if the obligated parent could produce proof of support and could demonstrate that the children so supported were " 'not then and [were] not likely thereafter to become public charges.' " Id. at 375, 98 S.Ct. at 675. The statute voided marriages contracted in any jurisdiction without the required court order and subjected violators to criminal punishment. The Supreme Court concluded that these statutes were impermissible direct restraints on the freedom to marry. Id. at 387, 390-91, 98 S.Ct. at 681, 683-84; Loving, 388 U.S. at 12, 87 S.Ct. at 1824.

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    In holding that the statute in Zablocki violated the Due Process Clause, the Court noted that

    [s]ome of those in the affected class ... will never be able to obtain the necessary court order.... These persons are absolutely prevented from getting married. Many others, able in theory to satisfy the statute's requirements, will be sufficiently burdened by having to do so that they will in effect be coerced into forgoing their right to marry.

    Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387, 98 S.Ct. at 681.

    In contrast to its ruling in Zablocki, the Court in the same term upheld a Social Security provision that terminated benefits to a secondary beneficiary if he or she married a person ineligible for Social Security benefits. Califano v. Jobst, 434 U.S. 47, 98 S.Ct. 95, 54 L.Ed.2d 228 (1977). As the Court explained in Zablocki,

    [t]he directness and substantiality of the interference with the freedom to marry distinguish the instant case from ... [Jobst ]. The Social Security provisions placed no direct legal obstacle in the path of persons desiring to get married, and ... there was no evidence that the laws significantly discouraged, let alone made "practically impossible," any marriages.

    Zablocki, 434 U.S. at 387 n. 12, 98 S.Ct. at 681 n. 12 (citation omitted).

    We conclude that the Warner Robins anti-nepotism policy does not directly and substantially interfere with the right to marry. The policy does not create a direct legal obstacle that would prevent absolutely a class of people from marrying. While the policy may...

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