Randall v. Scott, No. 09-12862.

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
Writing for the CourtBIRCH, Circuit
Citation610 F.3d 701
Docket NumberNo. 09-12862.
Decision Date30 June 2010
PartiesEarl RANDALL, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.Jewel SCOTT, in her individual capacity, Headley Leopold Scott, Tracy Graham Lawson, Clayton County District Attorney, in her official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

610 F.3d 701

Earl RANDALL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Jewel SCOTT, in her individual capacity, Headley Leopold Scott, Tracy Graham Lawson, Clayton County District Attorney, in her official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 09-12862.

United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.

June 30, 2010.


610 F.3d 702

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

610 F.3d 703
William J. Atkins, James A. Attwood, Atkins & Attwood, LLC, Atlanta, GA, for Randall.

Matthew Richard LaVallee, Paul Robert Koster, Daley, Koster & LaVallee, LLC, Atlanta, GA, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Before BIRCH, BARKETT and KRAVITCH, Circuit Judges.

BIRCH, Circuit Judge:

In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim appeal, we (1) reevaluate the pleading standard requirement for § 1983 cases involving qualified immunity, (2) determine whether Earl Randall's (“Randall”) complaint-alleging state conduct restricting his ability to run for public office-raises a claim for violation of his First Amendment rights, and (3) resolve whether Jewel Scott (“Scott”) was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court granted Scott's motion to dismiss Randall's individual and official capacity claims against Scott. We reject the district court's application of a heightened pleading standard and the district court's determination that Randall failed to allege a First Amendment violation. We agree, however, with the district court's determination that Scott enjoys qualified immunity protection for her actions. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court's grant of Scott's motion to dismiss Randall's individual capacity claim, and REVERSE the district court's dismissal of Randall's official capacity claim.

I. BACKGROUND

The district court order summarized the factual allegations stated in Randall's complaint as follows:

Randall was hired as an investigator after Jewell Scott was elected to the position of district attorney [of Clayton County, Georgia]. In June of 2005, Randall was promoted by Jewell Scott and became her chief of staff.
On or about September 21, 2007, Randall was approached by three colleagues who asked him to consider running for the position of Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (“Chairman”). On or about September 23, 2007, Randall and his wife agreed that he should pursue the opportunity.
On September 26, 2007, Randall met with Jewel Scott and told her that he intended to run for Chairman. According to Randall, Jewel Scott initially expressed to him that she was pleased with his decision to run for the position and mentioned that she did not want her husband, Lee Scott, to run.
That same day, Randall filed a Declaration of Intent to run with the Clayton County Election Office. Within a few days of filing this declaration, Randall learned that Lee Scott was very angry about Randall's decision to run for the position. Randall alleges that Lee Scott was seen slamming his fist into the table at a restaurant and stated that he wanted Jewel Scott to use her position to force Randall out of the race.
610 F.3d 704
On or about September 28, 2007, Jewel Scott advised Randall that her husband was very upset about his decision to run. She told him that Lee Scott wanted to run for Chairman and that Randall's campaign could potentially split the voters who wanted to vote against the incumbent, Eldrin Bell.
Randall refused to withdraw from the race. In October 2007, he met with Lee Scott, Jewel Scott and employees from the Clayton County District Attorney's office. Lee Scott told Randall that he wanted to run for Chairman, and Randall replied that he did not see a problem running for the same office. Lee Scott then became upset and told Randall that they would become enemies if Randall did not back out of the race, and he threatened to “destroy Randall.” Randall refused to drop out of the race. Lee Scott then allegedly turned to Jewel Scott and asked her to fire Randall.
In November of 2007, Jewel Scott allegedly told Randall that Lee Scott was pressuring her to fire Randall unless he backed out of the race. She told Randall to look for another job. Randall was approached by several mutual acquaintances who told him that Lee Scott was angry about Randall “reaching out to his political supporters” and warned him that if he stayed in the race he might lose his job because “he was making life difficult for Jewel Scott.”
Jewel Scott told Randall that “Lee Scott and Sheriff Hill told her that she would be perceived as a weak leader if she did not fire Randall for expressing his political views in a race against Jewel Scott's husband, among other candidates.”
On December 17, 2007, Randall sent invitations to a fundraiser hosted by one of his political supporters. Randall sent an invitation to Jewel Scott. The next day, Randall learned that Jewel Scott was upset about the fundraiser and that Lee Scott was angry because Randall was seeking campaign contributions through the fundraiser.
Five days after Jewel Scott received the invitation to Randall's fundraiser, she terminated Randall's employment.
Randall alleges that following his termination he has been unable to find permanent employment in law enforcement and has been forced to curtail his campaign activities because of his financial condition. Randall seeks lost wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

R1-18 at 2-5.

On 28 April 2008, Randall filed this action in the Superior Court of Clayton County, Georgia, asserting a First Amendment retaliation claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Scott, in her individual and official capacities, and a tortious interference claim against her husband, Headley Leopold Scott. Id. at 1-2. On 17 September 2008, Scott removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Id. at 2. On 22 September 2008, Scott filed a motion to dismiss, in which she argued that Randall's complaint failed to state a First Amendment violation and alternatively that she was immune from suit. Id.

The district court granted Scott's motion to dismiss on 20 May 2009. Id. at 17. The court concluded that “in light of the heightened pleading standard applicable in § 1983 cases, the mere fact that Randall decided to run for political office and held an event in connection with his candidacy is not enough to trigger First Amendment protection.” Id. at 14. Alternatively, even if the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to establish a First Amendment violation, the court concluded that Scott was entitled to qualified immunity because

610 F.3d 705
she did not violate clearly established law Id. at 15-16.

On appeal, Randall first argues that the district court improperly subjected his complaint to a heightened pleading standard. Randall suggests that our circuit precedent has been undermined by the Supreme Court's decisions in Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Second, Randall contends that the district court's First Amendment protection analysis was flawed, because his First Amendment rights were violated when Scott fired him for deciding to run for Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. Randall further submits that Scott is not entitled to qualified immunity for violating his First Amendment rights.

II. DISCUSSION

We review a district court order granting a motion to dismiss de novo, applying the same standard as the district court. Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir.2002). We therefore accept as true the facts as set forth in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Wilson v. Strong, 156 F.3d 1131, 1133 (11th Cir.1998).


A Pleading Standard

In granting Scott's motion to dismiss, the district court “employed a heightened pleading standard.” R1-18 at 6. Citing our opinion in Danley v. Allen, 540 F.3d 1298, 1313-14 (11th Cir.2008), the court stated that is was “ ‘bound to apply the heightened pleading requirement’ in a § 1983 case involving qualified immunity.” R1-18 at 6. On appeal, Randall argues that our circuit's heightened pleading requirement for § 1983 cases involving qualified immunity has been overruled by Jones and Iqbal.


1. History of Heightened Pleading Requirement

Generally, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. (8)(a)(2). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations,” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), but must “give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

Over two decades ago, “in an effort to eliminate nonmeritorious claims on the pleadings and to protect public officials from protracted litigation involving specious claims, we, and other courts ... tightened the application of Rule 8 to § 1983 cases.” Arnold v. Bd. of Educ. of Escambia County, 880 F.2d 305, 309 (11th Cir.1989). Under this heightened pleading standard, plaintiffs were required to provide “some factual detail” in addition to plain statements showing that they were entitled to relief. Oladeinde v. City of Birmingham, 963 F.2d 1481, 1485 (11th Cir.1992). We found such additional factual detail useful in § 1983 cases in order to make qualified immunity determinations at the motion to dismiss stage and to prevent public officials from enduring unnecessary discovery.

In 1993, the Supreme Court decided Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993), a § 1983 case involving a municipal entity defendant. In Leatherman, the Supreme Court stated that “it...

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    ...has held that “although being a candidate is not the same as supporting a candidate, the two acts are closely related,” Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 711 (11th Cir.2010), such that the “decision to run for office enjoys some First Amendment protection.” Id. at 714 (emphasis original). In ......
  • Lyttle v. United States, CASE NO. 4:11-CV-152 (CDL)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • 31 Marzo 2012
    ...Both deal with an unconstitutional deprivation of rights which the Supreme Court compares on equal footing. . . ." Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 708 n.3 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). "[I]t would be untenable to draw a distinction for purposes of immunity law between......
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1383 cases
  • Bridges v. Poe, 7:19-cv-00529-LSC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 9 Septiembre 2020
    ...Cir. 2003) (citing Hartley v. Parnell , 193 F.3d 1263, 1269 (11th Cir. 1999) ), abrogated in part on other grounds by Randall v. Scott , 610 F.3d 701 (11th Cir. 2010). Instead, a supervisor can only be liable when he "personally participates in the alleged unconstitutional conduct or when t......
  • Beepot v. J.P. Morgan Chase Nat'l Corporate Servs., Inc., Case No. 3:10–cv–423–J–34PDB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • 30 Octubre 2014
    ...Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir.1998) (internal citation omitted), overruled on other grounds as recognized in Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 706 (11th Cir.2010) ).5 Exhibit B to the Response appears to be a 2008 Mortgage Interest Statement in the name of Joanne A. Beepot related to th......
  • Heard v. Hannah, Case No. 7:13–CV–1998–VEH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 24 Septiembre 2014
    ...has held that “although being a candidate is not the same as supporting a candidate, the two acts are closely related,” Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 711 (11th Cir.2010), such that the “decision to run for office enjoys some First Amendment protection.” Id. at 714 (emphasis original). In ......
  • Lyttle v. United States, CASE NO. 4:11-CV-152 (CDL)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • 31 Marzo 2012
    ...Both deal with an unconstitutional deprivation of rights which the Supreme Court compares on equal footing. . . ." Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 708 n.3 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). "[I]t would be untenable to draw a distinction for purposes of immunity law between......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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