Lundblad v. Celeste

Decision Date04 May 1989
Docket NumberNos. 87-3651,87-3689,s. 87-3651
Citation874 F.2d 1097
PartiesSteven LUNDBLAD, Plaintiff-Cross-Appellant, Appellee, v. Richard D. CELESTE, Governor of Ohio; Dorothy Shoemaker, Executor of the Estate of Myrl Shoemaker, formerly Director of Ohio Department of Natural Resources; William Napier, Deputy Director of Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Donald Olson, Division Chief of Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Ronald James, Deputy Director of Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Defendants-Appellants, Cross-Appellees, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Defendant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Terrence M. Fay (argued), Asst. Atty. Gen., Environmental Enforcement Sec. Columbus, Ohio, for appellants.

Jeffrey Decile (argued), James Ayers' Law Office, Columbus, Ohio, for appellees.

Before MERRITT, KRUPANSKY and RYAN, Circuit Judges.

MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Steven Lundblad filed two actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ("ODNR") and various Ohio state officials in their individual capacities. The defendants moved to dismiss Lundblad's actions, now consolidated, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The district court denied the motions of all the defendants except that of Ronald James, holding that Lundblad stated a claim under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, the first amendment, and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. In granting James' motion to dismiss, the district court held that Lundblad's action against him was barred by the statute of limitations. Defendants now appeal the district court's order denying their motion to dismiss and Lundblad cross-appeals the district court's dismissal of his action against James. Lundblad also cross-appeals the district court's order imposing sanctions against both plaintiffs and defendants pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. We affirm the district court's order denying defendant's motion to dismiss insofar as it held that Lundblad stated a cause of action under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. We reverse, however, the district court's order insofar as it held that Lundblad stated a claim under the first amendment and the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. We affirm the district court's dismissal of Lundblad's claim against James. Finally, we decline to address the Rule 11 sanctions issue as it is not properly before the court.

I.
A.

In May of 1983, Lundblad filed suit against four of the current defendants, Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, Myrl Shoemaker, Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and Director of ODNR, 1 William Napier, Deputy Director of ODNR, and Donald Olson, Division Chief of ODNR, and ODNR itself. Plaintiff brought his claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, the first amendment, and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment by refusing to accept his bid for a contract to operate a golf course located in a state park. On April 14, 1986, a month short of three years after filing his original action, Lundblad filed a complaint against defendant James, Deputy Director of Resource Management for ODNR, alleging that James had been an active participant with the other defendants in the denial of Lundblad's constitutional rights. On July 5, 1983, ODNR and the other individual defendants in the original action moved for summary judgment on the ground that Lundblad's claims against all of the defendants were barred by the doctrine of res judicata as the result of a judgment rendered by an Ohio Common Pleas Court on April 20, 1983. ODNR also moved that Lundblad's claim against it be dismissed on eleventh amendment grounds. On June 25, 1984, the district court held that the individual defendants had valid res judicata defenses and ODNR was protected by the eleventh amendment from an award of monetary damages. Lundblad appealed. On August 22, 1985, this court decided that the defendants' res judicata defense was not valid, reversed the decision of the district court with respect to the individual defendants and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. 772 F.2d 907 (6th Cir.1985). Plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal of ODNR on eleventh amendment grounds, so ODNR is no longer a party to this action.

Thereafter, defendants renewed their motion to dismiss on the ground that, as state government officials, they were entitled to qualified immunity from civil damages. Meanwhile, plaintiff had filed his complaint against defendant James and on June 11, 1986, the district court granted a motion to consolidate the action against James with the original action against the other defendants. Defendant James, in addition to joining in the motion of the other defendants to dismiss on immunity grounds, also asserted that Lundblad's complaint against him was barred by the statute of limitations. The district court denied the defendants' motion and held that Lundblad had stated valid claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 pursuant to the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, the first amendment, and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. However, the court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to defendant James and held that plaintiff's claims against him were barred by the statute of limitations. The defendants, with the exception of defendant James, now appeal the district court's denial of their claim of qualified immunity. 2 Lundblad has filed a cross-appeal of the district court's dismissal of defendant James and of an earlier district court order granting sanctions against his counsel.

B.

Because this case comes before this court on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true, for purposes of this appeal, all of Lundblad's well-pleaded allegations. Ana Leon T.V. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 823 F.2d 928, 930 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 108 S.Ct. 333, 98 L.Ed.2d 360 (1987). Lundblad alleged that he operated the golf concession at Punderson State Park in Geauga County, Ohio from 1973 to 1982. Under Ohio state law, ODNR is permitted to operate public service facilities such as golf courses located in state parks with its own employees or by entering into contracts or leases for the operation of such facilities by private parties. O.R.C. Secs. 1501.07, 1501.09 (Supp.1987). Although Lundblad had done an excellent job during his nine years as operator of the golf course, ODNR decided to invite bids for a contract to operate the golf course during the 1983 season. ODNR thereafter sent an "Instruction to Bidders" ("ITB") to prospective bidders, including Lundblad. ODNR received four bids on the contract.

Lundblad alleged that internal ODNR evaluations reached the conclusion that the bid submitted by plaintiff was the best bid received. Nevertheless, on April 1, 1983, ODNR announced that it had accepted the bid submitted by Robert Grant. Plaintiff alleged that defendant Shoemaker, as Director of ODNR, awarded the contract to Grant solely on the ground that Lundblad was not a Democrat. He further alleged that the decision not to grant the contract to Lundblad was part of a broader conspiracy involving all of the defendants to award contracts only to Democrats and to completely exclude all bidders who are not Democrats.

On April 3, 1983, Lundblad filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, Ohio for injunctive relief against the award of the contract to anyone but himself. He obtained a temporary restraining order from that court enjoining the award of the contract to Grant. On April 16, 1983, before the state court had a chance to examine Lundblad's claims on the merits, Robert Grant wrote a letter to defendant Shoemaker withdrawing his bid and requesting the return of his bid bond. On April 18, 1983, defendant Shoemaker accepted Grant's withdrawal and returned to Grant his bid bond. Thereafter, defendant Shoemaker decided to reject all of the bids and to operate the golf course with ODNR employees pursuant to the statutory authority granted by O.R.C. Sec. 1501.09.

II.

It is now firmly established that some government officials in the course of performing official duties are entitled to a qualified immunity from suit for civil damages. The Supreme Court set out the standard for applying this qualified immunity in Harlow v. Fitzgerald:

[G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions, generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

* * *

* * *

If the law at that time was not clearly established, an official could not reasonably be expected to anticipate subsequent legal developments, nor could he fairly be said to know that the law forbade conduct not previously identified as unlawful.

457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982) (emphasis added).

Thus, under Harlow, Lundblad must allege facts which, if proven, "clearly establish" a violation of his constitutional rights. 3 Plaintiff has alleged violations of his constitutional rights under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, the first amendment, and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. Each of these must be examined in turn to determine whether they constitute allegations that defendants violated Lundblad's "clearly established" constitutional rights.

A. Equal Protection

Lundblad argues, and the district court held, that defendants' alleged action constituted a violation of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment thereby establishing a cause of action under Sec. 1983. The essence of...

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