Singleton v. Cecil

Decision Date06 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-1726,97-1726
Parties13 IER Cases 1344, 13 IER Cases 987 David C. SINGLETON, Appellant, v. Don CECIL, Individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police; Harley Moyer; Ivan Parker; Kevin Tidwell; Della Price; City of Advance, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Page 631

133 F.3d 631
13 IER Cases 1344, 13 IER Cases 987
David C. SINGLETON, Appellant,
v.
Don CECIL, Individually and in his official capacity as
Chief of Police; Harley Moyer; Ivan Parker;
Kevin Tidwell; Della Price; City of
Advance, Appellees.
No. 97-1726.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eighth Circuit.
Submitted Nov. 18, 1997.
Decided Jan. 8, 1998.
Order Vacating Opinion and Judgment on Grant of Rehearing
March 6, 1998.

Page 632

Jim R. Bruce, Kennett, Missouri, argued, for Appellant.

D. Keith Henson, St. Louis, MO, argued (Matthew R. Shetley, on the brief), for Appellees.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, and McMILLIAN and MAGILL, Circuit Judges.

MAGILL, Circuit Judge.

After the City of Advance, Missouri, terminated the employment of police officer David Singleton, Singleton sued the City of Advance's police chief and members of its city council under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994). Singleton initially claimed that he was terminated in retaliation for his knowledge of the police chief's allegedly improper purchase of an automobile. After discovery revealed that Singleton was discharged because his wife and daughter had plotted to frame the police chief, Singleton amended his complaint to claim that his termination infringed on his rights of free speech, association, privacy, and due process. The district court 1 granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims. Singleton appeals only the grant of summary judgment on his claims that the termination infringed on his fundamental right of privacy in the marital relationship

Page 633

and on his right to intimate familial association. We affirm.

I.

The City of Advance, Missouri, employed plaintiff David Singleton as a police officer from 1990 until his termination in March 1994. During the period relevant to this appeal, defendant Don Cecil served as the City of Advance's police chief. Defendants Harley Moyer, Ivan Parker, Kevin Tidwell, and Della Price were elected members of the City of Advance's city council. William Bradshaw, the mayor of Advance during this period, was not a named defendant. The City of Advance did not have a written employment agreement with Singleton. Under Missouri law, Singleton's employment was terminable at will, either by the mayor with approval of a simple majority of the city council, or by a two-thirds vote of the city council. See Mo. Ann. Stat. § 79.240 (West 1987); State ex rel. Lupo v. City of Wentzville, 886 S.W.2d 727, 730-31 (Mo.Ct.App.1994).

On the morning of March 8, 1994, Joann Singleton, the plaintiff's wife, called Sabrina Scaggs, the plaintiff's daughter, on a cordless telephone. Their conversation turned to the subject of Police Chief Cecil, who, in David Singleton's view, had purchased for his own benefit a red 1994 Ford Crown Victoria under an incentive program designed only for government purchases. 2 At one point in the conversation, Joann Singleton remarked that she wanted to "set up" Cecil by hiring someone to bribe him. Scaggs Dep. at 57, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 237. Unfortunately for the Singletons, this statement was recorded by private investigator David George. Throughout March 1994, George monitored cordless phone channels in the City of Advance with his radio scanner, "[m]ore or less" for entertainment purposes. George Dep. at 37, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 228. George played the tape for Police Chief Cecil and the mayor and later gave Cecil a copy of the tape.

Over the next few days, Police Chief Cecil played the tape for the city council members individually. Each recognized the voices on the tape as Joann Singleton and Sabrina Scaggs. At a special meeting on March 11, 1994, the city council unanimously voted to terminate Singleton's employment as a police officer, based on the recording of Joann Singleton plotting to frame Police Chief Cecil. See Tidwell Aff. at 3-4, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 134-35; Moyer Aff. at 3-4, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 139-40; Parker Aff. at 3-4, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 144-45; Price Aff. at 3-4, reprinted in Appellees' App. at 149-50. Singleton received a discharge letter dated March 11, 1994, which did not state a reason for his termination.

Singleton then sued Police Chief Cecil and the city council. Singleton's initial complaint alleged wrongful discharge and a violation of procedural due process. Singleton later amended this complaint to allege that the City of Advance violated his First Amendment, due process, and privacy rights by terminating him in retaliation for his knowledge of Police Chief Cecil's automobile purchase. During discovery, Singleton learned that the defendants' sole reason for their action was the recording of Joann Singleton plotting to bribe the chief of police. On November 11, 1996, Singleton again amended his complaint to include the additional claims that the dismissal based on his wife's statement violated Singleton's rights of free speech, intimate association, privacy, and due process.

Based solely on the second complaint, 3 the defendants moved for summary judgment. Singleton did not respond to this motion.

Page 634

The district court ruled on all of the claims in the third amended complaint and granted summary judgment for the defendants. The district court concluded that Singleton could not show retaliatory discharge because insufficient evidence connected Singleton's allegedly protected conduct (the intended whistle-blowing) and his termination. The district court also held that, as an employee at will under Missouri law, Singleton did not have a liberty or property interest in his employment sufficient to implicate procedural due process rights. Finally, the district court held that the defendants did not violate Singleton's privacy or associational rights and noted that the defendants "had a legitimate, good faith belief that plaintiff, with his family, was engaging in improper conduct by conspiring to bribe the Chief of Police." Mem. and Order (Feb. 20, 1997) at 8, reprinted in Appellant's App. at 95.

Singleton appeals only the district court's determination that the city did not violate his substantive due process right of privacy in his martial relationship and his First Amendment right of intimate association.

II.

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Morgan v. Rabun, 128 F.3d 694, 696 (8th Cir.1997). Summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to Singleton, "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). As the material facts...

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14 cases
  • Singleton v. Cecil
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • April 27, 1999
    ...in this case. II. On appeal, a divided panel of this court originally affirmed the district court in all respects. See Singleton v. Cecil, 133 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir.), vacated, 133 F.3d 631, 636 (8th Cir.1998) (Singleton I ). After granting Officer Singleton's petition for rehearing, the p......
  • Van Stelton v. Jerry Van Stelton, Donna Van Stelton, Eugene Van Stelton, Gary Christians, Doug Weber, Scott Gries, Nate Krikke, Robert E. Hansen, Daniel Dekoter, Osceola Cnty., Iowa, & Dekoter, Thole & Dawson, P.C., C11-4045-MWB
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • September 30, 2014
    ...to interfere with the relationship.'" Reasonover v. St. Louis County, Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 585 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Singleton v. Cecil, 133 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir. 1998) (quoting in turn Morfin v. Albuquerque Pub. Sch., 906 F.2d 1434, 1440 (10th Cir. 1990), cited with approval in Singleto......
  • Singleton v. Cecil
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • November 12, 1998
    ...privacy, and due process. After briefing and oral argument, we affirmed the judgment, one judge dissenting. See Singleton v. Cecil, 133 F.3d 631, 636 (8th Cir.1998). We then granted Mr. Singleton's petition for rehearing, thus vacating the original panel opinion and judgment. We have now re......
  • DYER v. BLANKENSHIP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • March 30, 2011
    ...to interfere with the relationship.'" Reasonover v. St. Louis County, Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 585 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Singleton v. Cecil, 133 F.3d 631, 635 (8th Cir.1998)). Here, Plaintiff has presented no evidence that Defendants had an intent to interfere with Kevin's relationship with hi......
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