James v. City of Monroe, 3:22-cv-00178-RJC-DSC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
Writing for the CourtRobert J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.
PartiesANGELIA NIKOLE JAMES, Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF MONROE, ET AL., Defendants.
Docket Number3:22-cv-00178-RJC-DSC
Decision Date10 August 2022


CITY OF MONROE, ET AL., Defendants.

No. 3:22-cv-00178-RJC-DSC

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

August 10, 2022


Robert J. Conrad, Jr. United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction (the “Motion”). (Doc. No. 15). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is DENIED.


A. Factual Background

1. Monroe City Council

In November 2019, Plaintiff was elected as a councilmember on the Monroe City Council. (Doc. No. 13 ¶ 40). She took office the next week for a four-year term. (Id.). The City Council consists of six councilmembers and the mayor. (Id. ¶ 39). The Council is responsible for the general governance of the City and appoints a city manager to serve as the City's chief administrative officer who oversees the day-to-day operations of the City, including personnel decisions. (Id. ¶ 39). The City Council makes employment decisions only as to the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk; it does not hire, fire, demote, promote, or supervise any other City employee. (Id.).

2. Events of September 9-10, 2021


In 2021, the Mayor of Monroe announced that he would not seek reelection. (Id. ¶ 41). Plaintiff decided to run for mayor, along with two other candidates. (Id.). In November 2021, Plaintiff ultimately lost her run for mayor. (Id. ¶ 71).

On September 9, 2021, Plaintiff was in the middle of her mayoral campaign. (Id. ¶ 42). According to Plaintiff, she woke up on September 9, 2021, saw a house under contract, and thought God was telling her that she was going to purchase the house. (Id. ¶ 43). She demanded to see the house even though it was already under contract because she “believed she was meant to have it.” (Id. ¶¶ 43-44). Next, at 10:00 a.m., Plaintiff had an interview with a local newspaper during which she ate a smoothie. (Id. ¶ 45). That afternoon, Plaintiff spoke with Monroe Police Department Chief of Police J. Bryan Gilliard, and Plaintiff told Gilliard to retire. (Id. ¶ 46; Doc. No. 13-2 at 9). Later that evening, after demanding to see the house under contract, Plaintiff informed her husband that she was going to buy the house. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48). Plaintiff's husband was “puzzled” by her behavior. (Id. ¶¶ 48-50). To avoid an argument with her husband, Plaintiff left her home with her youngest son and went to a local hotel. (Id.).

When Plaintiff arrived at the hotel, the staff informed her that there was not a room available for her. (Id. ¶ 50). At that time, Plaintiff felt “God was speaking to her again, this time telling her that there were ‘felons' at the [hotel]” and began accusing hotel guests of being felons. (Id. ¶¶ 50-52). Ultimately, the police responded to the hotel after Plaintiff called the Chief of Police and separately the hotel called the police because of Plaintiff's behavior. (Id.). When the police arrived, Plaintiff told them that there were felons in the hotel, and insisted that the police arrest the felons. (Id. ¶ 52). Plaintiff had various interactions with the police during this time, including, among other things:

• Directing the actions of the officers, including to arrest hotel guests
• Calling a white female officer “uppity,” that she needed to “change her character and her facial expressions,” that she had poor body language, that Plaintiff was a Councilmember who deserved respect, and that going to Weddington High School “did not mean anything;”
• Purportedly promoting, demoting, and/or firing various responding officers
• Attempting to remove a Captain's badge from his shirt; and
• Asserting that the Captain “don't like black people.”

(Id. ¶ 53; Doc. No. 13-2 at 12-15). During these interactions with the police officers, Plaintiff asserted on multiple occasions that she was a councilmember. (Doc. No. 13-2 at 12-15). She also called the Chief of Police to inform him of her views on the officers and asserting to him that various officers with which she interacted were purportedly promoted, demoted, and/or fired. (Id.). Eventually, the Chief of Police contacted an off duty officer “very versed in handling situations like this” to respond to the hotel. (Id. at 14). The off duty officer informed Plaintiff's husband of the incident and they both responded to the hotel. (Id.). After Plaintiff's husband arrived, he informed officers that Plaintiff had a similar incident once before roughly ten years earlier. (Doc. No. 13 ¶ 54).

After some time, Plaintiff went home; however, at home she began arguing with her husband and within minutes Plaintiff contacted the police for assistance.[1] (Doc. No. 13 ¶¶ 54-58). Ultimately, the same officers were dispatched to her house where she continued with similar assertions and directives to the officers, including, among other things:

• Informing the officers that she purportedly fired the Chief of Police and replaced him with a new police chief;
• Telling the officers that if they did not like the new police chief she appointed then they would not last in their positions;
• Informing the paramedics that she promoted an officer to captain; and
• Directing the officers to escort her to various parts of her home.

(Id. ¶ 57; Doc. No. 13-2 at 16). First responders convinced Plaintiff to go to the hospital after she had chest pain and nausea. (Doc. No. 13 ¶ 58).

At the hospital, Plaintiff resisted an officer's attempts to usher her into a private room and pulled off the officer's face mask. (Id. ¶ 59; Doc. No. 13-2 at 17-18). Although the officer believed Plaintiff's actions constituted ane assault, he did not arrest or charge her with assault because she was a councilmember. (Doc. No. 13-2 at 17). Plaintiff also continued to purportedly fire officers and assert that she fired the Captain because “he doesn't like black people.” (Id. at 18; Doc. No. 13 ¶ 59). Eventually, the hospital sedated Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 13 ¶ 60). She was involuntarily committed, diagnosed with “acute psychosis,” and released the next day. (Id.).

On the days following the September 9 incident, Plaintiff spoke to various media outlets about the incident, including asserting that the officers lied about the events of September 9, 2021, expressing her opinions about ethical issues with another mayoral candidate and other councilmembers, and criticizing the City Council's reaction to the September 9 incident. (Id. ¶ 66).

3. City Council's Response

On September 28, 2021, the City Council approved by 5-2 vote a Resolution of Censure. (Id. ¶ 68). The Censure concluded Plaintiff's conduct violated the Council's Code of Ethics. (Id.). Thereafter, on October 20, 2021, through counsel, five police officers involved in the September 9 incident sent a letter to the City requesting it open a formal investigation into Plaintiff's actions that night, and the press conferences thereafter. (Id. ¶ 69). The letter enclosed human resources complaints by four of the five officers. (Id. ¶ 70).


On November 9, 2021, the Council adopted by 4-2 vote a Resolution of City Council of City of Monroe, North Carolina, to Direct Issuance of a Petition in Amotion to Council Member Angelia Nikole James R-2021-89 (the “Amotion Resolution”).[2] (Id. ¶ 72; Doc. No. 13-6). The Amotion Resolution observed that “an endeavor to remove a sitting Council member should never be undertaken except for the most serious circumstances.” (Doc. No. 13-6). It directed the City Attorney to “prepare a petition in amotion to remove [Plaintiff] from office” and “incorporate[] information related to the September 9-10, 2021 incidents, as well as issues related to Covid-19 that the City became aware of on September 14, 2021, press conferences involving [Plaintiff] following the September 9-10, 2021 incidents, [and] claims raised by members of the City of Monroe Police Department on or before October 20, 2021.” (Id.).

On December 13, 2021, the Council adopted rules for the amotion proceedings, which split the proceedings into two phases: (1) an evidentiary hearing before a Hearing Officer, and (2) a hearing before the Council as to whether to remove Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 13-7). Under the rules, during the evidentiary hearing, the Hearing Officer serves in “the role of a Judge, Administrative Law Judge or Arbitrator” and “subsequently present[s] a series of written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations to the City Council” as to “whether or not the Councilmember that is the subject of the petition should be removed from office.” (Id. at 5, 9). Additionally, the City Council has “the burden to prove that the Councilmember who is the subject of the Petition has committed misconduct in office warranting removal from office, as alleged in the Petition and “[t]he burden shall never shift to the [Councilmember.]” (Id. at 6). On January 6, 2022,


the City filed the Petition in Amotion to Remove Plaintiff from City Council. (Doc. No. 1-4).

4. Plaintiff's Allegations of Councilmembers' Bias

Prior to the evidentiary hearing, Plaintiff asserted that the City Council was biased against her and the amotion rules infringed on her due process rights because the rules precluded her from subpoenaing the councilmembers and Mayor to develop facts concerning such bias. (Doc. No. 132 at 6-8). Also before the evidentiary hearing Plaintiff argued certain councilmembers and the Mayor were biased because they voted to censure Plaintiff. (Id.). The Hearing Officer invited Plaintiff and the City to submit evidence and briefs with their positions, and although not entirely clear, it does not appear that they did. (Id.). Instead, after the hearing on January 27 and 28, the parties jointly proposed that the Hearing Officer recommend “to the City Council that [Plaintiff] and those who voted for the Censure . . . be excused from...

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