MICAH B. PHILLIPS, Plaintiff - Appellant
CITY OF DALLAS, Defendant - Appellee
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
For Micah B. Phillips, Plaintiff - Appellant: Christopher D. Kratovil, Esq., Steven Matthew Baker, Kristina Marie Williams, Dykema Gossett, P.L.L.C., Dallas, TX.
For City of Dallas, Defendant - Appellee: Nicholas Dane Palmer, Attorney, James Bickford Pinson, Assistant City Attorney, Ayeh Barzin Powers, Assistant City Attorney, Barbara Elaine Rosenberg, Esq., City Attorney's Office, for the City of Dallas, Dallas, TX.
Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and SOUTHWICK and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
CARL E. STEWART, Chief Judge:
In 2011, Micah Phillips--then a 12-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department--announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary for a seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. At that time, city laws prevented city employees from seeking office in any county overlapping the city of Dallas (as Dallas County does). The City subsequently terminated Phillips for violating those laws. In this suit, dismissed on the pleadings by the district court, Phillips challenges those laws both facially and as applied to him. We AFFIRM.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Micah Phillips (" Phillips" ) began working for the Dallas Fire Department in April 1999. He was working as a fire dispatcher when, in December 2011, he announced his candidacy for the Dallas County Commissioners Court. The city of Dallas (the " City" ) notified Phillips on January 23, 2012, that he had violated the Dallas City Charter and the Dallas City Code of Ethics by " fail[ing] to forfeit [his] position with the City after becoming a candidate for Dallas County Commissioner." Two days later, the City formally discharged him.
The provision of the Dallas City Charter under which the City terminated Phillips states: " If any employee of the city becomes a candidate for nomination or election to any elective public office within
Dallas County . . . the employee shall immediately forfeit his or her place or position with the city." Dallas City Charter, Ch. 3, § 17(c). The ethics provision, interpreting § 17(c), limits its application to partisan office-seekers and further implements that section. It states that an " employee of the city immediately forfeits employment with the city if the employee . . . becomes a candidate for nomination or election in a partisan election for public office within a county in which the city of Dallas resides . . . ." Dallas Code of Ethics, § 12A-10(b). For simplicity, we refer to these laws collectively as " the Charter" or the " City's Charter."
The City denied Phillips's internal appeal, and he subsequently brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit in federal district court in August 2012, alleging that the City violated his First Amendment rights. The district court, relying primarily on Civil Serv. Comm'n v. Nat'l Ass'n of Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548, 550--51, 93 S.Ct. 2880, 37 L.Ed.2d 796 (1973) (upholding federal legislation preventing federal executive branch employees from " tak[ing] an active part in political management or political campaigns" ), granted the ...