Session November 17, 2016
from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-13-0507
Walter L. Evans, Chancellor
employee of the Memphis Fire Department was terminated
following his involvement in a physical altercation in which
he struck a business associate in the face with a hammer. The
City of Memphis Civil Service Commission upheld the
termination, and the employee filed a petition for judicial
review. The chancery court reversed the termination, holding
that the Civil Service Commission erred in not allowing the
employee the benefit of Tennessee's self-defense statute,
in excluding certain evidence of disparate treatment, and in
entering a decision not supported by substantial and material
evidence. Having reviewed the record, we reverse the judgment
of the chancery court in all respects and remand the case for
such further proceedings as are necessary and consistent with
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Reversed and Remanded
McMullen and Zayid A. Saleem, Memphis, Tennessee, for the
appellant, City of Memphis Civil Service Commission.
Darrell J. O'Neal, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee,
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Kenny Armstrong, J.,
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE
Background and Procedural History
Holmes had been employed by the Memphis Fire Department for
20 years when he was involved in a physical altercation at
his home with Leon Bosby, a former business associate, on
June 4, 2009. On that date, Mr. Bosby, accompanied by his
five-year-old son, drove to Mr. Holmes's house to pay
$500 of a $4, 000 debt he owed Mr. Holmes from an earlier
transaction. When they arrived, Mr. Holmes invited Mr. Bosby
and Mr. Bosby's son into his house to discuss Mr.
Bosby's payment of the remaining debt. The discussion
became heated when Mr. Holmes asked Mr. Bosby to sign two
receipts as evidence of the remaining debt. Although Mr.
Holmes and Mr. Bosby subsequently gave conflicting accounts
of the events that followed, it is undisputed that a physical
altercation ensued during which Mr. Holmes struck Mr. Bosby
in the face with a hammer. Bleeding profusely, Mr. Bosby
returned to his vehicle and left Mr. Holmes's house with
his son. After driving a short distance, Mr. Bosby flagged
down a police officer and reported that he had been attacked
by Mr. Holmes. In the meantime, Mr. Holmes called 911 and
reported that he had been attacked by Mr. Bosby. Several
police officers arrived at Mr. Holmes's house shortly
thereafter to investigate the matter. After completing their
investigation, the officers arrested Mr. Holmes and charged
him with aggravated assault.
the serious nature of the charges against Mr. Holmes, the
Memphis Fire Department requested an investigation of the
incident. The Memphis Police Department's Inspectional
Services Bureau conducted the investigation and prepared a
report detailing its findings. The report contained, among
other things, Mr. Holmes's and Mr. Bosby's accounts
of the incident. In his statement to investigators, Mr. Bosby
maintained that he was trying to leave the house with his son
when Mr. Holmes attacked him from behind. Mr. Bosby stated
that he never touched Mr. Holmes prior to the attack. Mr.
Holmes, on the other hand, admitted to striking Mr. Bosby
with a hammer but maintained that he did so in self-defense.
Police reports included in the investigative report reflected
the responding officers' determination that the evidence
at the scene supported Mr. Bosby's account of the events.
thereafter, the City of Memphis (the "City")
charged Mr. Holmes with violating the following disciplinary
Division of Fire Services Operations Manual, Volume 100,
Rules and Regulations
Section 102.01, Page 2, Regulation 9
Members shall not exhibit conduct either on duty or off duty
that is in breach of public trust.
Section 102.01, Page 2, Regulation 10
Members shall not exhibit conduct, either on duty or off duty
that could be considered unbecoming a member of the Fire
Division or City of Memphis.
Section 103.01, Page 3, General Provision 11 (Major
g) Disruption of work.
r) Arrest, incarceration or conviction of a criminal offense
whether misdemeanor or felony.
s) Conduct unbecoming a member of the Memphis Fire Department
or City of Memphis.
City of Memphis Personnel Manual
PM 62-12, Section 62-00, Page 1, Paragraph 1
City employees, as integral members of City of Memphis
Government, shall adhere to acceptable business principles in
matters of personal conduct and behavior and exhibit a high
degree of personal integrity. This not only involves respect
for the rights and feelings of other City employees, but
demands that City employees refrain from any conduct or
behavior that is criminal or illegal, or that might be
personally harmful to coworkers and City of Memphis
Government, or that could be viewed unfavorably by the public
PM 62-12, Section 62-00, Page 1, Paragraph 4
City of Memphis Government employees are required to accept
assigned job responsibilities, adhere to rules of conduct at
all times, and shall not commit criminal or illegal acts
against the City of Memphis, other City employees, or the
public at large. Violation of this policy shall subject City
employees to disciplinary action up to and including