United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
WILLIAM L. BOONE, Plaintiff,
TOWN OF COLLIERVILLE, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
McCALLA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
action concerns Plaintiff William L. Boone's allegations
against Defendant Town of Collierville
(“Defendant” or “the Town”) for
violations of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
and the state Public Employee Political Freedom Act of 1980,
Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-601, et seq
(“PEPFA”). Boone, a former firefighter for
Defendant, asserts that after Boone voiced concerns about
favoritism within the fire department, he was charged with
violating personnel policies and later terminated.
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment,
filed January 31, 2017. (ECF No. 22.) Boone filed a timely
response in opposition on March 3, 2017. (ECF No. 38.) For
the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's
Summary Judgment Motion as to Plaintiff's § 1983
First Amendment Retaliation claim. Accordingly, the Court
DISMISSES Plaintiff's § 1983 First Amendment
Retaliation claim with prejudice. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
remaining state law claims. The Court, therefore, DISMISSES
Plaintiff's state law claims without prejudice.
Boone is a resident of Collierville, Tennessee and former
firefighter for Defendant. (Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 1,
3.) Boone was a firefighter for the Town from April 1984
until March 27, 2015 (id. ¶ 4), when he was
terminated for violating an Anti-Bully Policy and for making
false or malicious statements (id. ¶¶
to Boone's termination, in 2004, Jerry Crawford became
the chief of the Town's fire department. (Id.
¶¶ 6, 9.) In 2014, Boone began to believe Chief
Crawford was showing favoritism towards employees who lived
in Fayette County, Tennessee. (Id. ¶ 10.) That
same year, Boone “communicated these concerns regarding
Chief Crawford and the fire department to members of the Town
of Collierville's Board of Mayor and Alderman, including
Tom Allen (‘Alderman Allen') and Alderman Billy
Patton (‘Alderman Patton').” (Id.
Allen relayed these concerns to the Town Administrator, James
Lewellen, who investigated the complaints. (Id.
¶ 14.) As part of that investigation, Lewellen
interviewed Boone. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18.) After
concluding his investigation, Lewellen referred the matter of
Plaintiff's conduct, as uncovered during the
investigation, to the Town's Human Resources Director,
Jay Jeffries, to determine whether a statement of charges
should be issued. (Id. ¶ 23.)
March 20, 2015, Jeffries provided Boone notice of charges to
be finalized at a future hearing. (Id. ¶ 23.) A
hearing took place on March 23, 2015. (Id. ¶
28.) On March 27, 2015, Boone received a letter from Jeffries
that recommended Boone's termination based on Boone
violating an Anti-Bully Policy and for making false or
malicious statements. (Id. ¶¶ 29-32.) The
same day, Boone received a letter from Chief Crawford
accepting Jeffries's recommendation for Boone's
termination. (Id. ¶ 33.) Boone subsequently
appealed his termination, but it was reaffirmed by Lewellen.
(Id. ¶¶ 34-35.)
March 25, 2016, Boone filed a Complaint in this Court. (ECF
No. 1.) The Complaint alleges three causes of action: (1) the
Town's termination of Boone's employment constitutes
“unlawful retaliation in violation of his
constitutional rights to free speech, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983” (id. ¶ 46); (2) the
Town's actions “constitute unlawful discrimination
in violation of the Public Employee Political Freedom Act of
1980, Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-601, et
seq.” (id. ¶ 47); and (3) the
Town's actions amounted to intentional infliction of
emotional distress (see id. ¶¶ 48-49).
Boone seeks back pay, front pay, lost benefits, compensatory
and punitive damages, other costs, and treble damages.
(Id. at PageIDs 7-8.) On May 20, 2016, the Town
filed its Answer. (ECF No. 12.)
January 31, 2017, the Town filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 22.) The Town's Motion for Summary
Judgment, in summary, contends that
Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim that he was discharged for
speaking out on matters of public concern fails as a matter
of law for several reasons. First, Plaintiff has not alleged
or established that his termination was the result of
municipal custom or policy. Second, Plaintiff did not speak
out on matters of public concern. Third, even if Plaintiff
did speak out on issues of public concern, he fails to show
that his right to speak outweighs the interest of the Town,
as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public
services it performs through its employees. With respect to
Plaintiff's State Law claim[s], upon dismissal of
Plaintiff's federal claim, his [state law claims] should
be dismissed without prejudice.
(Id. at PageID 74.) On March 3, 2017, Boone filed
his timely response in opposition. (ECF No. 38.) Defendant
filed its reply on March 10, 2017, per the Court's Order
Expediting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment Reply
Deadline. (See ECF Nos. 50, 54.)
Motion for Summary Judgment
is entitled to summary judgment “if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is ‘material' for
purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would
establish or refute an essential element of the cause of
action or defense.” Bruederle v. Louisville Metro
Gov't, 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012).
considering a motion for summary judgment, [the] court
construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614
(6th Cir. 2014) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
“The moving party bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material
fact.” Mosholder v. Barnhardt, 679 F.3d 443,
448 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).
the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts
showing a triable issue of material fact.”
Mosholder, 679 F.3d at 448-49; see also
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
“When the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient
showing of an essential element of his case on which he bears
the burden of proof, the moving parties are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law and summary judgment is
proper.” Martinez v. Cracker Barrel Old Country
Store, Inc., 703 F.3d 911, 914 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Chapman v. UAW Local 1005, 670 F.3d 677, 680 (6th
Cir. 2012) (en banc)); see also Kalich v. AT & T
Mobility, LLC, 679 F.3d 464, 469 (6th Cir. 2012).
order to “show that a fact is, or is not, genuinely
disputed, ” both parties must do so by “citing to
particular parts of materials in the record, ”
“showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, ” or showing
“that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact.” Bruederle, 687
F.3d at 776 (alterations in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1)); see also Mosholder, 679 F.3d at 448
(“To support its motion, the moving party may show
‘that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.'” (quoting Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 325)). “Credibility
determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing
of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions,
not those of a judge[.]” Martinez, 703 F.3d at
914 (alteration in original) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).
court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(3). “[T]he district court has no ‘duty to
search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a
genuine issue of material fact.'” Pharos
Capital Partners, L.P. v. Deloitte & Touche, 535 F.
App'x 522, 523 (6th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting
Tucker v. Tennessee, 539 F.3d 526, 531 (6th Cir.
2008), abrogation recognized by Anderson v. City of Blue
Ash, 798 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2015)).
“‘[J]udges are not like pigs, hunting for
truffles' that might be buried in the record.”
Emerson v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 446 F. App'x
733, 736 (6th Cir. 2011) (alteration in original) (quoting
United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir.
decisive “question is whether ‘the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law.'” Johnson v.
Memphis Light Gas & Water Div., 777 F.3d 838, 843
(6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at
251-52). Summary judgment “‘shall be entered'
against the nonmoving party unless affidavits or other
evidence ‘set forth specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial.'” Rachells v.
Cingular Wireless EmployeeServices, LLC, No.
1:08CV02815, 2012 WL 3648835, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Aug. 23, 2012)
(quoting Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497
U.S. 871, 888889, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695).
“[A] mere ‘scintilla' of evidence in support
of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to
defeat summary judgment; rather, the non-moving party must
present evidence upon which a reasonable jury could find in
her favor.” Tingle v. Arbors at Hilliard, 692
F.3d 523, 529 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477
U.S. at 251). “[I]n order to withstand a motion for
summary judgment, the party opposing the motion must present
“affirmative evidence” to support his/her
position.” Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d
577, 584 (6th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 2514 (1986); Street v.
J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir.
1989)). “[C]onclusory assertions, unsupported by
specific facts made in affidavits ...