Thompson v. Adams, No. 00-2051

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore Wollman, Chief Judge, and Bowman and Morris Sheppard Arnold; Morris Sheppard Arnold
Citation268 F.3d 609
Parties(8th Cir. 2001) DON THOMPSON AND CARYL THOMPSON, APPELLANTS, v. CARL ADAMS, ED BEAN, NIELS ESKILDSEN, HARRY GRAHAM, AND DOUG VANDEMARK, SR., EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CITY COUNCILMAN; BOB DOOLIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS MAYOR; AND CITY OF BULL SHOALS, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEES. Submitted:
Decision Date14 February 2001
Docket NumberNo. 00-2051

Page 609

268 F.3d 609 (8th Cir. 2001)
DON THOMPSON AND CARYL THOMPSON, APPELLANTS,
v.
CARL ADAMS, ED BEAN, NIELS ESKILDSEN, HARRY GRAHAM, AND DOUG VANDEMARK, SR., EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CITY COUNCILMAN;

Page 610

BOB DOOLIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS MAYOR; AND CITY OF BULL SHOALS, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEES.
No. 00-2051
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
Submitted: February 14, 2001
Filed: October 12, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

Before Wollman, Chief Judge, and Bowman and Morris Sheppard Arnold, Circuit Judges.

Morris Sheppard Arnold, Circuit Judge

Approximately five weeks after Caryl Thompson addressed the city council of Bull Shoals, Arkansas, with respect to actions of various council members that she felt were unlawful, the mayor, with the support of the council, fired her husband,

Page 611

Don Thompson, from his position as city street superintendent. He had worked for the city for twenty years.

The Thompsons sued the city, the mayor, and the council members, alleging that they denied Mr. Thompson's due process rights under the fourteenth amendment by firing him without notice, a statement of reasons, and a pre-termination hearing, and that the post-termination hearing that he received was inadequate because of bias on the part of the mayor and the council members. The Thompsons also contended that Mr. Thompson was fired in retaliation for his wife's remarks at the council meeting, thus violating their rights under the first amendment. (For the sake of simplicity, hereafter we refer to the defendants collectively as "the city.")

In their complaint and obliquely in their appellate brief, the Thompsons also seem to assert an equal protection claim under the fourteenth amendment, but apparently they did not pursue that issue in the district court. In their appellate brief, they discuss equal protection questions only as support for their contention that the city's purported reasons for firing Mr. Thompson were pretextual. We therefore conclude that any equal protection claim that was raised has been abandoned.

The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing first that Mr. Thompson was an "at-will" employee under Arkansas law and therefore possessed no due process rights with respect to his job, and second that no evidence existed to show a causal link between Mrs. Thompson's remarks and Mr. Thompson's firing. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on those grounds, and the Thompsons appeal. We affirm the judgment of the district court.1

I.

We turn first to Mr. Thompson's due process claim. As a threshold issue, we must decide whether, as a matter of law, Mr. Thompson was protected by the due process guarantees of the fourteenth amendment, that is, whether the terms of his employment were such that, under the Constitution, he had a property interest in his job. Even if he did, he would not necessarily be entitled to reinstatement; the city would, however, have to grant him a hearing, if he requested one, where he could be informed of the grounds for his firing and where he could respond to the reasons given for his firing. See Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 603 (1972).

Mr. Thompson was protected by the due process guarantees of the fourteenth amendment only if he had "a legitimate claim of entitlement" to his job, Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972). We do not look to federal law to determine whether such a claim exists; rather, state law or some other "independent source," id., amounting to "mutually explicit understandings," Perry, 408 U.S. at 601, must establish such an entitlement.

The gist of Mr. Thompson's argument is that although Arkansas law customarily considers employment relationships to be "at will," i.e., without security for employees that they will be fired only for cause, see Gladden v. Arkansas Children's Hospital, 728 S.W.2d 501, 504-05 (Ark. 1987), see also Crain Industries, Inc. v. Cass, 810 S.W.2d 910, 913 (Ark. 1991), and Drake v. Scott, 823 F.2d 239, 241 (8th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 965

Page 612

(1987), the city's employment policies and procedures manual is an "independent source," Roth, 408 U.S. at 577, that establishes a property interest for a city employee in his or her job. In this respect, Mr. Thompson contends that, at the least, he has provided sufficient evidence to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), on the question of whether the city's employment manual establishes security for an employee against being fired except for cause and, therefore, provides Mr. Thompson with a property right in his job.

II.

Mr. Thompson directs our attention first to the employment manual's section on "matters affecting the status of employees." Language in that section delineates a grievance procedure in the event of disciplinary action (including firing an employee) and states that the city will give written...

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15 practice notes
  • Schlarp v. Dern, Civil Action No. 06-1089.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 24, 2009
    ...that is central to any concept of liberty."). Courts frequently mischaracterize this right as a First Amendment right. Thompson v. Adams, 268 F.3d 609, 614 (8th Cir.2001); Wallace v. Texas Tech University, 80 F.3d 1042, 1051 (5th Cir.1996); Parks v. City of Warner Robins, 43 F.3d 609, 611-6......
  • City of Albuquerque v. Pangaea Cinema LLC, No. 30,380.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • July 20, 2012
    ...any meaningful secondary effects.Tollis, Inc., 827 F.2d at 1333 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also BZAPS, Inc., 268 F.3d at 609 (Bye, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (“An ordinance that allows the city to regulate the content of a single performance, wi......
  • Baltimore v. Clark, No. 68 Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 20, 2008
    ...expressly authorized by statute, and County of Giles v. Wines, 262 Va. 68, 546 S.E.2d 721, 723 (2001); Thompson v. 944 A.2d 1127 Adams, 268 F.3d 609, 612-13 (8th Cir. The petitioners also argue that, "even if the Court were to accept Clark's interpretation of [Public Local Law, § 16-5(e)], ......
  • Zorich v. St. Louis Cnty., Case No. 4:17-CV-1522 PLC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • December 18, 2018
    ...speech, lacked standing because he failed to demonstrate that the firing had "any actual or potential inhibitory effect" on his speech. 268 F.3d 609, 614 (8th Cir. 2001). The court did not discuss what effect the fact that he did not engage in the protected speech had on his standing. 28. P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Schlarp v. Dern, Civil Action No. 06-1089.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 24, 2009
    ...that is central to any concept of liberty."). Courts frequently mischaracterize this right as a First Amendment right. Thompson v. Adams, 268 F.3d 609, 614 (8th Cir.2001); Wallace v. Texas Tech University, 80 F.3d 1042, 1051 (5th Cir.1996); Parks v. City of Warner Robins, 43 F.3d 609, 611-6......
  • City of Albuquerque v. Pangaea Cinema LLC, No. 30,380.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • July 20, 2012
    ...any meaningful secondary effects.Tollis, Inc., 827 F.2d at 1333 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also BZAPS, Inc., 268 F.3d at 609 (Bye, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (“An ordinance that allows the city to regulate the content of a single performance, wi......
  • Baltimore v. Clark, No. 68 Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 20, 2008
    ...expressly authorized by statute, and County of Giles v. Wines, 262 Va. 68, 546 S.E.2d 721, 723 (2001); Thompson v. 944 A.2d 1127 Adams, 268 F.3d 609, 612-13 (8th Cir. The petitioners also argue that, "even if the Court were to accept Clark's interpretation of [Public Local Law, § 16-5(e)], ......
  • Zorich v. St. Louis Cnty., Case No. 4:17-CV-1522 PLC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • December 18, 2018
    ...speech, lacked standing because he failed to demonstrate that the firing had "any actual or potential inhibitory effect" on his speech. 268 F.3d 609, 614 (8th Cir. 2001). The court did not discuss what effect the fact that he did not engage in the protected speech had on his standing. 28. P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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