Hayden v. Alabama Dep't of Public Safety, Civil Action No. 2:06cv948-ID (WO).

Citation506 F.Supp.2d 944
Decision Date11 June 2007
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 2:06cv948-ID (WO).
PartiesRonald P. HAYDEN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. ALABAMA DEP'T OF PUBLIC SAFETY, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama

Jimmy Douglas Jacobs, Law Office Of Jimmy Jacobs, Montgomery, AL, for plaintiffs.

Jack M. Curtis, William G. McKnight, Alabama Department Of Public Safety, Legal Unit, Montgomery, AL, for defendants.


IRA DeMENT, Senior District Judge.


Plaintiff Ronald P. Hayden filed this employment discrimination lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that Defendants violated his liberty interests protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, infringed upon his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by treating him differently than other similarly-situated employees, and retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment. He also alleges infractions of various state laws. Plaintiff Melissa L. Hayden joins her husband in this lawsuit.1 Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: (1) the Alabama Department of Public Safety ("ADPS"), the agency which employed Plaintiff; (2) Colonel W.M. Coppage ("Colonel Coppage"), the director of the ADPS; (3) Captain Herman Wright ("Captain Wright"), the ADPS officer in command of the Standards and Integrity Unit; (4) Danny Hestor ("Officer Hestor"), an ADPS sworn officer; (5) Sergeant Byron D. "Pete" Prescott ("Sergeant Prescott"), an ADPS sworn officer; (6) Neil Tew ("Officer Tew"), acting chief of the Executive Protection Division; and (7) Defendant Michael Robinson ("Mr. Robinson"), the assistant attorney general who served as legal counsel for the ADPS. Colonel Coppage is sued in both his individual and official capacities; the remaining individual Defendants are sued only in their personal capacities.

Defendants have filed a collective motion to dismiss which now is before the court for a decision. (Doc. No. 1.) As grounds for their motion, Defendants raise failure to state a claim and absolute/qualified immunity as defenses. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 12.) Accepting the facts in the complaint as true and reviewing them most favorably to Plaintiff, the court finds that Defendants' motion to dismiss is due to be granted as to some claims, and denied as to others.


The, court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 for all claims arising under federal law. The court also has original jurisdiction over claims based upon violations of civil rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the court has supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds adequate allegations of both.


Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint because the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion questions the legal sufficiency of a complaint; therefore, in assessing the merits of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must assume that all the factual allegations set forth in the complaint are true. See, e.g., United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 327, 111 S.Ct. 1267, 113 L.Ed.2d 335 (1991); Powell v. Lennon, 914 F.2d 1459, 1463 (11th Cir.1990). Moreover, all factual allegations are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 598, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989).

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure generally sets the benchmark for determining whether a complaint's allegations are sufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). In 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions, however, where government officials sued in their individual capacities may be entitled to qualified immunity, the Eleventh Circuit has "tightened" the pleading requirements. GJR Investments, Inc. v. County of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1367 (11th Cir.1998); see also Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir.2001) (recognizing that, in the Eleventh Circuit, a complaint must be pleaded with "heightened specificity ... in civil rights actions against public officials who may be entitled to qualified immunity"). Accordingly, in determining whether a plaintiff has stated a § 1983 claim against a defendant in his or her individual capacity, courts must be "guided both by the regular 12(b)(6) standard and by the heightened pleading requirement." GJR Investments, 132 F.3d at 1367.

Moreover, in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) assertion of qualified immunity, "[u]nless the plaintiff's allegations state a claim of violation of clearly established law, a defendant pleading qualified immunity is entitled to dismissal before the commencement of discovery." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985). As explained in Marsh v. Butler, "The Supreme Court has urged [courts] to apply the affirmative defense of qualified immunity at the earliest possible stage in litigation because the defense is immunity from suit and not from damages only." 268 F.3d 1014 (11th Cir. 2001), implicitly modified on other grounds by Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 122 S.Ct. 2508, 153 L.Ed.2d 666 (2002). This circuit, therefore, has recognized that, "[w]hile the defense of qualified immunity is typically addressed at the summary judgment stage of a case, it may be ... raised and considered on a motion to dismiss." St. George v. Pinellas County, 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir.2002).


The facts in the complaint, which are taken as true for present purposes, are as follows.2 Plaintiff began his employment as a "sworn officer" with the ADPS in 1985. (Compl.¶ 13.) In 2002, at the request of Governor Bob Riley, who at the time was a candidate in the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial election, Plaintiff was assigned by the ADPS to serve as a full-time security agent for Governor Riley. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff began his security duties for Governor Riley in November 2002. (Id.)

In September 2004, notwithstanding that Plaintiff received "exceeds standards" ratings on his performance evaluations, Captain Wright verbally informed Plaintiff that he was under investigation by the ADPS Standards and Integrity Unit ("SIU"). (Id. ¶ 15.) The same day, Plaintiff, received a memorandum signed by Colonel Coppage stating that the SIU investigation was based upon the following charges: "misconduct and conduct unbecoming in that a review of the ADPS documentation revealed numerous discrepancies in work hours claimed, travel claims, and vehicle usage." (Id. ¶ 16.) Two days later, also by memorandum, Colonel Coppage notified Plaintiff that, in connection With the charges lodged against him, Plaintiff was scheduled to attend a mandatory administrative interview. After Plaintiffs interview, Colonel Coppage placed Plaintiff on ten days mandatory annual leave. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.)

The following month, in October 2004, Plaintiff was informed in a letter from Officer Tew, the acting chief of the Executive Protective Division, that Plaintiffs immediate supervisor (Sergeant Prescott) recommended that the ADPS fire Plaintiff based upon the "numerous incidents of falsified documents that rose to the level of serious misconduct and conduct unbecoming to an officer." (Id. ¶ 19.) Officer Tew indicated that he concurred with Sergeant Prescott's recommendation. (Id.) Subsequently, Colonel Coppage notified Plaintiff that his employment with the ADPS was terminated effective November 4, 2002. (Id.)

Prior to Plaintiffs termination (on or about October 20), Colonel Coppage issued a press release which accused Plaintiff of falsifying reports and travel vouchers and misusing state vehicles. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff states that "[t]his information, which was false and defamatory, was reported in the major media of the state and caused great personal humiliation, embarrassment and damage to [his] reputation." (Id.) During this same time frame, Colonel Coppage and Mr. Robinson also requested the Alabama Ethics Commission and the Alabama Attorney General's office to prosecute Plaintiff for the charges of misconduct. (Id. ¶ 27.) Then, after Plaintiffs termination, on November 10, 2004, Colonel Coppage submitted a Post-8 form to the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission that Plaintiffs employment had been terminated for "falsifying documents," which had the effect of precluding Plaintiff from being employed in Alabama as a law enforcement officer. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff hired an attorney and appealed his termination to the Alabama State Personnel Board ("Personnel Board"). Responding to Plaintiffs appeal, Colonel Coppage "or others under his control and at his direction" added charges of misconduct which were not part of the initial investigation against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 24.) An administrative law judge held a three-day hearing on Plaintiffs appeal and found that all of the charges lodged against Plaintiff were "unsubstantiated." (Id. ¶ 25.) On November 21, 2005, the Personnel Board "voted unanimously to overturn [Plaintiff's] termination ..., and ordered him reinstated within ten days with all accrued pay and benefits." (Id. ¶ 26.) Notwithstanding the decision by the Personnel Board, Colonel Coppage and Mr. Robinson refused to reinstate Plaintiff to his position, and Mr. Robinson urged Plaintiff to retire. (Id.) Colonel Coppage and Mr. Robinson also "instigate[d] an action with the Alabama Department of Public Examiners to require [Plaintiff] to repay the state for expenses and charges which had ... already been adjudicated as unfounded by the State Personnel Board." (Id. ¶ 28.)

Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on September 16, 2006, in...

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