Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mahn v. Jefferson County

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 7, 2018

Jamie Mahn Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Jefferson County, State of Missouri Defendant-Appellee 23rd Judicial Circuit, State of Missouri Defendant Wes Wagner, Individually and in his Official Capacity as County Clerk/Election Authority of Jefferson County, Missouri; Howard Wagner, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Circuit Clerk of the 23rd Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, Missouri Defendants - Appellees Jeanette McKee, State of Missouri Defendant Mike Reuter, Circuit Clerk of Jefferson County Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: January 9, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          BENTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Jamie L. Mahn brought a First Amendment patronage-discharge claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jefferson County, Missouri; Howard Lee Wagner ("Howard"), individually and in his official capacity as circuit clerk of Missouri's 23rd Judicial Circuit; Howard Wesley Wagner ("Wes"), individually and in his official capacity as county clerk/election authority of Jefferson County; and Michael Reuter, in his official capacity as (successor) circuit clerk. The district court[1] granted summary judgment against Mahn. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms in part and remands in part.

         I.

         In 2012, Howard hired Mahn as a deputy clerk. In 2014, Howard did not run for reelection. He supported fellow Democrat Jeanette McKee. According to Mahn, Howard "summoned [her] into his office" to "forcefully impress upon [her] the need for her to vote for McKee and the Democratic ticket." She responded, "I'll vote for whoever I want to, and what you're threatening is unconstitutional."

          Mahn voted in the August 5, 2014 Republican primary election. She alleges that on August 26, Howard told her: "Just wanted to chat with you a little bit. Just wanted to let you know that, you know, I know how you voted. And I don't think you made the right decision. You know this could cause you your job." On September 19, 2014, Howard terminated Mahn's employment. Her termination letter stated: "Poor work performance, unable to complete tasks correctly and within given time lines. Abuse of sick leave, insubordination by lying to assigned supervisor."

         Mahn believes Howard terminated her because he learned she voted in the Republican primary. She alleges that Wes-Howard's son-had "access to all voter information" because he was the county clerk/election authority. She claims Howard and Wes "reached a mutual agreement and understanding to commit the unlawful act of disclosing who [Mahn] had voted for, and thereafter, to discharge her from her employment for exercising her right to vote."

         II.

         The district court applied the framework from Langley v. Hot Spring County, Arkansas, 393 F.3d 814 (8th Cir. 2005). In Langley, this court explains that "a dismissal solely on account of an employee's political affiliation violates the First Amendment unless 'the hiring authority can demonstrate that party affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of the public office involved.'" Langley, 393 F.3d at 817, quoting Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 518 (1980). The Langley case notes that a prior decision from this court "extended the Elrod-Branti principle to include cases in which political affiliation was a motivating factor in the dismissal, rather than the sole factor." Id., citing Barnes v. Bosley, 745 F.2d 501, 507 (8th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1017 (1985). With the motivating-factor extension, Langley clarifies:

[T]o resolve a claim under Elrod and Branti at the summary judgment stage, the district court first determines whether the plaintiff has submitted sufficient evidence that political affiliation or loyalty was a motivating factor in the dismissal. If the plaintiff meets this burden, summary judgment must be denied unless the defendant establishes either that the political motive is an appropriate requirement for the job, or that the dismissal was made for mixed motives and the plaintiff would have been discharged in any event.

Id. The "mixed motives" alternative comes from Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274 (1977). See Barnes, 745 F.2d at 507. By Mt. Healthy:

[T]he burden of persuasion itself passes to the defendant-employer once the plaintiff produces sufficient evidence from which the fact finder reasonably can infer that the plaintiff's protected conduct was a "substantial" or "motivating" factor behind her dismissal. Accordingly, once the burden of persuasion shifts to the defendant-employer, the plaintiff-employee will prevail unless the fact finder concludes that the defendant has produced enough evidence to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.