from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Louisiana
JONES and OWEN, Circuit Judges, and ENGELHARDT, District
H. JONES, Circuit Judge.
appellants are two former sheriff's deputies in Bossier
Parish, Louisiana, who chose not to obey a directive from the
Sheriff and were removed from their offices. Their
disobedience arose from their decisions to move in with each
other's wife and family before getting divorced from
their current wives. Whether these decisions, which violated
the Sheriff's Code of Conduct, infringed on
appellants' constitutional rights, and whether the
Code's policies conform to the Constitution were decided
against them. We AFFIRM.
material facts are undisputed. When Chief Deputy Sheriff Owens learned in
late October 2014 that Coker and Golden had each taken up
residence in the other's house, exchanging spouses
without having divorced their current wives, they were placed
on administrative leave for violating the Sheriff's Code
of Conduct. The Code includes the following standards:
Conduct yourselves at all times in such a manner as to
reflect the high standards of the Bossier Sheriff's
Office . . . [and] Do not engage in any illegal, immoral, or
indecent conduct, nor engage in any legitimate act
which, when performed in view of the public, would reflect
unfavorabl[y] upon the Bossier Sheriff's Office.
had also violated a provision that required them to inform
their direct supervisors within 24 hours of a change of
address, a measure designed to ensure their availability at
all times in case of an emergency.
moved swiftly. Coker and Golden were informed that each must
cease living with a woman not his spouse. If the deputies
refused to do so, they were told, then as of November 24 they
would be considered to have terminated employment
voluntarily. The deadline passed, their living situations did
not change, and they filed suit shortly thereafter.
in the lawsuit were Sheriff Whittington and Deputy Sheriff
Owens, in their personal and official capacities, and the
Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office. Following evidentiary
jousting, the district court ruled in favor of the
defendants. The court held first that the Code policies
invoked against Coker and Golden are supported by the
rational grounds of preserving a cohesive police force and
upholding the public trust and reputation of the
Sheriff's Department. Case law, including decisions of
this circuit, has uniformly approved terminations of law
enforcement officers for sexually inappropriate
conduct. There are no decisions to
the contrary suggesting that the deputies, as public
employees of law enforcement agencies, have constitutional
rights to "associate" with each other's spouses
before formal divorce. That Lawrence v. Texas, 539
U.S. 558, 123 S.Ct. 2472 (2003), expanded substantive
constitutional rights relating to personal sexual choices
does not mandate a change in policies relevant to public
employment, where it was more recently reaffirmed that public
employees necessarily shed some of their constitutional
rights as a legitimate exchange for the privilege of their
positions. Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 426,
126 S.Ct. 1951, 1962 (2006). The district court also
concluded that the Code of Conduct is not unconstitutionally
vague as written or enforced. It does not offend the fair
notice requirements of due process, especially with regard to
discipline that was not itself unconstitutional.
Shawgo, 701 F.2d at 477-79.
no reversible error of fact or law in the district
court's decision. Sexual decisions between consenting
adults take on a different color when the adults are law
enforcement officers. Their enforcement duties include, for
instance, crimes of human trafficking and spousal abuse that
place them in sensitive positions with members of the public.
Their involvement in relations that openly and
"notoriously" violate the legally sanctioned
relationships of marriage and family is likely to besmirch
the reputation of the Sheriff's Department and hinder its
ability to maintain public credibility. Moreover, these
officers' extramarital relationships, even if consensual
and loving at the outset, have great potential to create
internal dissension within the force. Finally, it is not hard
to envision how the existence of Coker's and Golden's
cohabitation with each other's wives prior to divorce and
remarriage might be adversely used in litigation concerning
the deputies' official conduct.
Supreme Court's recent decision in Obergefell v.
Hodges does not alter applicable law. 135 S.Ct. 2584,
2598 (2015). Whatever ramifications
Obergefell may have for sexual relations beyond the
approval of same-sex marriage are unstated at best, but
Obergefell is expressly premised on the unique and
special bond created by the formal marital relationship and
children of that relationship. Id. at 2594-95.
Obergefell does not create "rights" based
on relationships that mock marriage, and no court has so
district court's judgment is AFFIRMED.