English v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ.

Decision Date03 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. CV95-H-1317-S.,CV95-H-1317-S.
Citation938 F. Supp. 775
PartiesM.C. ENGLISH, Plaintiff, v. TALLADEGA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION; Lance Grisset, etc., Dr. Howard Strickler, etc., EDPM, Inc., etc., Jimmy Hayes, etc., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

Huel M. Love, Sr., Love Love & Love, Talladega, AL, Charles F. Norton, Paden & Paden, Birmingham, AL, for plaintiff M.C. English.

Carl E. Johnson, Jr., Bishop Colvin Johnson & Kent, Birmingham, AL, for defendants Talladega County Board of Education, Lance Grisset, Jimmy Hayes.


HANCOCK, Senior District Judge.

The Court has before it the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants the Talladega County Board of Education ("the Board"), Lance Grisset ("Grisset"), and Jimmy Hayes ("Hayes") on March 4, 1996. Pursuant to the Court's March 5, 1996 Order, the motion was deemed submitted on April 2, 1996, without oral argument.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff M.C. English ("plaintiff") initiated this action on May 25, 1995 by filing a ten-count complaint against the Talladega County Board of Education, Lance Grisset, Dr. Howard Strickler, Jimmy Hayes, and EDPM, Inc. Plaintiff, a mechanic's helper with the Talladega County Board of Education, claims that defendants violated his constitutional rights by requiring him to undergo mandatory random drug testing, by failing to follow prescribed procedural safeguards with regard to urine testing procedures, and by wrongfully terminating him as the result of improper drug test results. Count I asserts a § 1983 substantive due process claim based on defendants' violation of plaintiff's fundamental right under the 4th Amendment to be free from unreasonable search. Count II asserts a § 1983 claim for defendants' failure to comply with procedural safeguards assured to plaintiff by federal law. Count III asserts a § 1983 claim for defendants' alleged violation of equal protection by treating Department of Transportation ("DOT") covered employees and "non-DOT" employees differently with regard to drug testing. Counts Four through Ten included various state law claims based on defendants' mandatory drug testing of plaintiff. On July 17, 1995, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims and dismissed those claims without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). The Court has jurisdiction over the claims asserted in Counts I, II, and III, because plaintiff's claims arise from the federal civil rights statutes. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343.

On February 2, 1996, the Court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Dr. Howard M. Strickler and EDPM, Inc. Although the Court's February 2, 1996 Order did not dispose of all claims against all parties and was not made final under Fed. R.Civ.P. 54(b), plaintiff attempted to appeal that order to the Court of Appeals. On July 18, 1996, the Eleventh Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

Meanwhile, the remaining defendants (the Board, Hayes, and Grisset), had filed a motion for summary judgment on March 4, 1996. In support of that motion, defendants1 filed an evidentiary submission containing the Affidavit of Jimmy Hayes with exhibits,2 a copy of plaintiff's deposition, and the deposition of Darwin Garvin. Defendant also submitted a brief, including a statement of undisputed facts.

Plaintiff responded with an evidentiary submission of his own, including references to evidence already in the record. Plaintiff directed the Court's attention to various documents concerning the Department of Transportation regulations that governed defendants' drug testing program, a number of documents relating to plaintiff's drug test, termination, hearing, and reinstatement, and the depositions of Benjamin Padgett and Dr. Howard Strickler. In addition, plaintiff submitted new and additional evidence, consisting of his own affidavit, an excerpt from Dr. Strickler's deposition, the Board's drug testing policy, some "Regulatory Guidelines" from the Federal Highway Administration, an EDPM document entitled "An Overview of Alcohol & Drug Rules," a letter plaintiff received from the Board informing him that he had been terminated, a newspaper article reporting the Board's action in terminating plaintiff, a list of Board employees to be drug tested, a blank drug testing consent form, the deposition of Patricia Baker, and a urine sample custody and control form. Plaintiff also submitted a brief.

II. Standards for Evaluating a Summary Judgment Motion

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper "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." See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2552-53. Once the moving party has met his burden, Rule 56(e) requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by his own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir.1993). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Id. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2510-11.

The method used by the party moving for summary judgment to discharge its initial burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the issue at trial. See Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-17 (citing United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428 (11th Cir.1991) (en banc)).

If the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, then it can only meet its initial burden on summary judgment by coming forward with positive evidence demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; i.e. facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115. If the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce significant, probative evidence demonstrating a genuine issue for trial.

If the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. First, the moving party may produce affirmative evidence negating a material fact, thus demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. If the moving party satisfies its burden using this method, the non-moving party must respond with positive evidence sufficient to resist a motion for directed verdict at trial. The second method by which the moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment is to affirmatively show the absence of evidence in the record to support a judgment for the non-moving party on the issue in question. This method requires more than a simple statement that the non-moving party cannot meet its burden at trial but does not require evidence negating the non-movant's claim; it requires the movant to point out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-16. The affirmative showing may be accomplished by reference to any combination of the following: pleadings; deposition testimony of a party or its witness; affidavits; responses to interrogatories or failure to respond to interrogatories; requests for admission and responses thereto; and other exchanges between the parties that are in the record. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604 (11th Cir.1991); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 332, 106 S.Ct. at 2557-58 (Brennan, J., dissenting). If the movant meets its initial burden by using this second method, the nonmoving party may either point out to the court record evidence, overlooked or ignored by the movant, sufficient to withstand a directed verdict, or the non-moving party may come forward with additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency.

III. Undisputed Relevant Facts

The record reveals the following undisputed facts. Plaintiff is employed as a mechanic's helper for the Board. (English Aff.). Plaintiff's job duties include diagnosing and repairing mechanical problems with the Board's fleet of school buses, as well as occasionally driving buses to and from the maintenance shop. (Hayes Aff., ¶ 15 & Exhibit J; English Affidavit). Plaintiff is also required to perform safety-related inspections of the Board's school buses. (Hayes Aff., ¶ 15 & Exhibits J-K). Plaintiff's occasionally drives buses loaded with oil for on-site oil changing, and he might infrequently be asked to drive a regular school bus route. (Hayes Aff., ¶ 14). Plaintiff had not, prior to January 1995, been reprimanded or disciplined by the Board. (English Aff.).


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