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Thompson v. Anderson

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

March 27, 2017

LATOYA REDD THOMPSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CLEVELAND ANDERSON, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DANIEL P. JORDAN III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This § 1983 case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Declaratory Relief Claim for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction [7]. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted in part but denied in part. I. Facts and Procedural History On August 16, 2016, Canton Municipal Utilities (“CMU”), a municipal-owned-and-operated utility entity, hired Plaintiff Latoya Redd Thompson as a staff attorney. On September 13, 2016, in a 3-2 vote, CMU's commissioners voted to terminate Thompson's employment; Defendants Cleveland Anderson, Cleotha Williams, and L.C. Slaughter voted in favor of termination. Aggrieved by the loss of her job, Thompson filed this lawsuit on September 15, 2016, against CMU and Anderson, Williams, and Slaughter in their official and individual capacities.[1]

         Thompson alleges that Defendants' actions in terminating her employment without notice and a hearing violated her due-process rights. In her Complaint, she seeks the following relief:

A. A declaration that Anderson, Williams and Slaughter violated her rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when they terminated her without proper notice and a hearing;
B. A declaration that Latoya Redd Thompson shall be reinstated to her position as staff attorney[;]
C. A temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from interfering with Latoya Redd Thompson's constitutional rights when she returns to her position as staff attorney[;]
D. An award to Plaintiff of attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and E. and [sic] such other and further [relief] as this Court deems appropriate.

Compl. [1] at 4-5.

         The same day she filed her Complaint, Thompson moved for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order, seeking reinstatement to her position as staff attorney. Pl.'s Mot. [2]. The Court held an in-chambers conference on the matter that same date, at which the parties agreed that Thompson would be reinstated. An Agreed Order to that effect, which found Thompson's pending motion “moot, ” was entered on September 16, 2016. Agreed Order [5].

         Defendants thereafter filed their motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, asking the Court to decline consideration of “Plaintiff's sole remaining claim [that] seeks [a declaration] that her alleged termination violated her Fourteenth Amendment right.” Defs.' Mem. [8] at 2. Thompson responded in opposition, Defendants filed a rebuttal, and the Court is now prepared to rule. II. Analysis Defendants contend that the Agreed Order rendered moot all Thompson's claims in this case, leaving the Court without subject-matter jurisdiction. See Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S.Ct. 1523, 1532 (2013) (concluding that because the plaintiff's claims were moot, “her suit was appropriately dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction”). In their opening memorandum, Defendants focus solely on the Court's discretion to decline to entertain declaratory-judgment claims. In response, Thompson points out that she also makes claims for injunctive relief and attorney's fees, and in rebuttal, Defendants contend that the injunctive relief claim is either not ripe or moot. The Court will address Thompson's distinct claims separately.

         A. Claim for Declaratory Relief

         In the Complaint, Thompson asked for two separate declarations from the Court; one of them-the request that the Court declare that she “be reinstated to her position as staff attorney”-is plainly moot. Compl. [1] at 5. Defendants ask the Court to decline jurisdiction over the other request, which seeks a declaration that the individual defendants “violated [Thompson's constitutional] rights . . . when they terminated her without proper notice and a hearing[.]” Id. at 4.

         As Defendants note, district courts have discretion “over whether to decide or dismiss a declaratory judgment action.” Travelers Ins. Co. v. La. Farm Bureau Fed'n, Inc., 996 F.2d 774, 778 (5th Cir. 1993). The Fifth Circuit has “identified seven nonexclusive factors for a district court to consider in deciding whether to decide or dismiss a declaratory action”:

(1) whether there is a pending state action in which all of the matters in controversy ...

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