Hughes v. Halifax County School Bd., No. 87-2641

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore POWELL; ERVIN; First, he argues that the JNOV was procedurally improper because Lloyd did not make a motion for a directed verdict on the issue of lost wages before the jury rendered its verdict. Second, he argues that the scuffle at Turbevill
Citation855 F.2d 183
Parties48 Ed. Law Rep. 1062 Chandler Nelson HUGHES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. HALIFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD; James Gregory; Herbert Lloyd; Julian Harrison, Defendants-Appellees, and Tommy Lacks, Defendant.
Decision Date26 August 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-2641

Page 183

855 F.2d 183
48 Ed. Law Rep. 1062
Chandler Nelson HUGHES, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
HALIFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD; James Gregory; Herbert Lloyd;
Julian Harrison, Defendants-Appellees,
and
Tommy Lacks, Defendant.
No. 87-2641.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.
Argued June 7, 1988.
Decided Aug. 26, 1988.

Page 184

Mark Sheridan Bremner (Stephen W. Bricker, Bremner, Baber & Janus, Richmond, Va., on brief), for plaintiff-appellant.

Dennis Patrick Lacy, Jr. (Lacy & Mehfoud, P.C., Richmond, Va., Don P. Bagwell, Sr., Bagwell, Bagwell & Bagwell, Halifax, Va., on brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before POWELL, Associate Justice (retired), United States Supreme Court, sitting by designation, and ERVIN and WILKINSON, Circuit Judges.

ERVIN, Circuit Judge:

Appellant, Chandler Nelson Hughes, challenges the propriety of the district court's actions in granting directed verdicts or judgments notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the appellees on his Sec. 1983 claims. 1 Finding no error below, we affirm.

I.

This case began on August 8, 1984, when Hughes and three co-workers were sent to Turbeville Elementary School to dig a foundation for a building. The men worked for the maintenance department of the Halifax County School Board. After their lunch break, two of Hughes' three co-workers (Lloyd and Gregory) began to tease him about his participation in a grand jury investigation of the school board and thefts suffered by the maintenance department in particular. The taunts escalated and Gregory said "Let's hang him for it." Gregory and Lloyd then got a rope from the truck and went through a mock hanging of Hughes. Hughes was not amused.

When the group returned to the maintenance office, Hughes told the supervisor, Julian Harrison, of the incident. Hughes told Harrison that the mock hanging was in retaliation for his talking to the grand jury. 2

The next day Harrison talked to Lloyd and Gregory, who told stories that differed with that told by Hughes. Harrison also talked to Lacks, the third co-worker who witnessed the ordeal. Lacks thought everyone was joking. JA 328-33.

On August 9, Harrison met with Dr. Jones, the Superintendent. Jones had been appointed to his post some six weeks earlier when his predecessor resigned under fire. He did not know any of the men involved in the incident. Jones told Harrison to discharge Lloyd, Hughes and Gregory. Hughes was told that he could appeal his discharge to Jones. Hughes never appealed; he filed suit.

Hughes brought suit against Gregory, Lloyd, Harrison, and the school board. He argued that he was discharged because of

Page 185

his race and in retaliation for his cooperation with the grand jury investigation into misdeeds by the school board. He filed a ten count complaint alleging violations of Title VII, Sec. 1985, Sec. 1983, Sec. 1981, and several pendent state law claims. Hughes voluntarily withdrew four of his claims and suffered directed verdicts or judgments notwithstanding the verdicts on several other claims. 3

Hughes appeals his Sec. 1983 claims. He argued in Count 5 of his complaint that he was deprived of his free speech right in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The district court granted directed verdicts in favor of the school board and Harrison on these claims. The court sent the Sec. 1983 claims against Gregory and Lloyd to the jury only for purposes of appeal. When the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hughes against Lloyd and Gregory, Judge Kiser granted a JNOV in favor of the co-workers. Hughes contests each of these rulings before this court.

Hughes also appeals the district court's decision to grant a JNOV in favor of Lloyd on the issue of lost wages. In its special verdict, the jury found Lloyd (but not Gregory) liable to Hughes for some $18,000 in lost wages. Judge Kiser granted a JNOV in favor of Lloyd. Hughes contests the JNOV procedurally and on the merits. We are unpersuaded by any of Hughes' challenges to the judgment below. First, we examine the claims that the directed verdicts for the school board and Harrison on the Sec. 1983 count were improper. Second, we consider Hughes' claim that the JNOV in favor of Lloyd and Gregory on the Sec. 1983 claim was improper. Finally, we discuss the propriety of the JNOV in favor of Lloyd on the lost wages claim.

II.

In ruling on the directed verdict motion, the district court must consider the record as a whole, and construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. If the non-movant has presented substantial evidence in support of his position, evidence that is of such quality and weight that a fair and impartial jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, then a directed verdict is improper. Craven v. Southern Railway, 412 F.2d 835, 836 (4th Cir.1969).

To establish municipal liability under Sec. 1983, the plaintiff must be able to show that the execution of a municipal policy or custom inflicts an injury. Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Hughes relies on the "custom or usage" aspect of the test to argue that he was injured, and he argues that Harrison was a policymaker who terminated him because of an impermissible motive. Neither position is tenable.

First, Harrison is not a policymaker under state statutory or case law. There is no reference in the state education law to a maintenance supervisor having the authority to terminate employees. Code of Virginia, Title 22.1. The state constitution gives control of the school system to the school board. Va. Const. Art. VIII, Sec. 7. This control includes supervising personnel. School Board v. Parham, 218 Va. 950, 243 S.E.2d 468 (1978). Furthermore, we note that in Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 89 L.Ed.2d 452...

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50 practice notes
  • Jordan by Jordan v. Jackson, No. 93-1656
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • January 31, 1994
    ...F.2d 1380, 1385 (4th Cir.1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1027, 108 S.Ct. 752, 98 L.Ed.2d 765 (1988); Hughes v. Halifax County School Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 185 (4th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1042, 109 S.Ct. 867, 102 L.Ed.2d 991 Section 1983 plaintiffs seeking to impose liability on a muni......
  • U.S. v. Temple, Docket No. 05-0165-CR(L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 1, 2006
    ...at 548. In determining that the color of law requirement had not been met, the District Court relied on Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183 (4th Cir.1988). In Hughes, the plaintiff claimed that "he was assaulted, battered, and subjected to intentional emotional distress under co......
  • Martinez v. Colon, No. 94-2138
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • April 3, 1995
    ...for the state--has different legal ramifications than violence attributable to state action. See, e.g., Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 186-87 (4th Cir.1988) (distinguishing private actions of county maintenance workers from cases in which "the actions complained of were co......
  • Ashby v. Isle of Wight County School Bd., No. CIV.A. 2:03CV540.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 15, 2004
    ...the liability of a school board in Virginia as a municipality for purposes of a § 1983 action); Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 185 (4th Cir.1988)(same). Municipalities are "persons" within the meaning of § 1983. Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Services, 436 U.S. 658,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
50 cases
  • Jordan by Jordan v. Jackson, No. 93-1656
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • January 31, 1994
    ...F.2d 1380, 1385 (4th Cir.1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1027, 108 S.Ct. 752, 98 L.Ed.2d 765 (1988); Hughes v. Halifax County School Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 185 (4th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1042, 109 S.Ct. 867, 102 L.Ed.2d 991 Section 1983 plaintiffs seeking to impose liability on a muni......
  • U.S. v. Temple, Docket No. 05-0165-CR(L).
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • May 1, 2006
    ...at 548. In determining that the color of law requirement had not been met, the District Court relied on Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183 (4th Cir.1988). In Hughes, the plaintiff claimed that "he was assaulted, battered, and subjected to intentional emotional distress under co......
  • Martinez v. Colon, No. 94-2138
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • April 3, 1995
    ...for the state--has different legal ramifications than violence attributable to state action. See, e.g., Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 186-87 (4th Cir.1988) (distinguishing private actions of county maintenance workers from cases in which "the actions complained of were co......
  • Ashby v. Isle of Wight County School Bd., No. CIV.A. 2:03CV540.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 15, 2004
    ...the liability of a school board in Virginia as a municipality for purposes of a § 1983 action); Hughes v. Halifax County Sch. Bd., 855 F.2d 183, 185 (4th Cir.1988)(same). Municipalities are "persons" within the meaning of § 1983. Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Services, 436 U.S. 658,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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