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Williams v. Tucker

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 23, 2017

Donna Williams Plaintiff
v.
Frederick P. Tucker, Judge, in his Official Capacity and in his Individual Personal Capacity Defendant-Appellant Linda Jenkins Plaintiff-Appellee Kevin Shoemaker, Sheriff, in his Individual Personal Capacity Defendant

          Submitted: January 11, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - Hannibal

          Before WOLLMAN, MURPHY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

          MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

         Linda Jenkins was reduced to part time employment as the bailiff in a county courthouse shortly after the election of Frederick Tucker as presiding circuit judge. Jenkins sued Tucker and the county sheriff, alleging that she had been unlawfully retaliated against for supporting the losing candidate for presiding judge. The district court[1] granted summary judgment to the sheriff but denied it to Tucker, who filed this interlocutory appeal. We affirm.

         I.

         Linda Jenkins began working as a deputy sheriff in Macon County, Missouri in 1998. Within a year she was working two part time positions: both as a road deputy patrolling the county and as a bailiff providing security in the Macon County courthouse located in Missouri's 41st judicial district. Jenkins began working full time as a bailiff in 2003, while remaining a commissioned deputy sheriff. The presiding circuit judge arranged for her salary to move from the sheriff's budget to the court budget "to ensure that she would be available for courtroom security at all times as the Courts . . . were in session."

         This presiding circuit judge retired in early 2011, and the governor appointed Frederick Tucker to fill the vacancy. Tucker ran for reelection in 2012 against associate circuit judge Philip Prewitt. Jenkins supported Prewitt in the election and had his campaign sign placed on her property. Tucker won the November 2012 election, however, and reportedly told Jenkins, who was still working full time as the court's bailiff, that he "want[ed] somebody that supports [him]" working for him.

         As presiding circuit judge, Tucker was responsible for approving the budgets for the court and the sheriff. When he transmitted the budgets to the county commissioners for approval shortly after the election, he moved Jenkins' salary from the court budget and placed it back into the sheriff's budget without notifying Jenkins. The county commissioners then decreased the sheriff's personnel budget by $18, 869.59, an amount slightly less than Jenkins' annual salary.

         No minutes from the county commissioner meeting indicated any discussion of the bailiff position or its potential impact on the requested budgets. The newly elected sheriff, Kevin Shoemaker, said that the commissioners had explained to him that Jenkins should be included in his budget and could work as either a part time bailiff or a full time road deputy. Sheriff Shoemaker then gave Jenkins the option of taking one of those two positions or retiring, and Jenkins chose to work as a bailiff part time. This change in her employment status resulted in Jenkins losing her health insurance coverage as well as her social security and retirement benefits.

         Jenkins brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Tucker and Shoemaker in their individual and official capacities for retaliating against her for having supported associate judge Prewitt in the election. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court granted Shoemaker summary judgment after concluding that Jenkins had failed to present evidence that Shoemaker knew she had supported Prewitt or taken any retaliatory action against her. The district court denied Tucker summary judgment after concluding that Tucker's statement that he "wants somebody who supports [him]" provided direct evidence of retaliatory motive. The court also concluded that whether the budget transfer caused an adverse employment action presented a material issue of fact. Tucker appeals the denial of qualified immunity.

         II.

         We review "the denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity de novo, viewing all evidence in a light favorable to the non moving parties." Shockency v. Ramsey Cty., 493 F.3d 941, 948 (8th Cir. 2007). A state official is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity unless (1) the "facts taken in the light favoring the nonmoving party show that the official's action violated a constitutional right" and (2) that right "was clearly established" at the time of the violation. Id. at 947. On such an interlocutory appeal, our review is limited to determining purely legal issues such as "whether a reasonable fact-finder could find a violation of plaintiff['s] rights" and "whether the law establishing the violation was clearly established at the time in question." S.M. v. Krigbaum, 808 F.3d 335, 340 (8th Cir. 2015). We ...


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