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Stuckey v. Clarksdale Municipal School District

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

November 1, 2017

MEOSHA STUCKEY PLAINTIFF
v.
CLARKSDALE MUNICIPAL SCHOOL DISTRICT DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This First Amendment action is before the Court on Clarksdale Municipal School Disrict's motion for summary judgment, Doc. #26, and motion to strike, Doc. #33.

         I

         Procedural History

         On September 13, 2016, Meosha Stuckey filed a complaint in this Court alleging that the Clarksdale Municipal School District, her former employer, violated the First Amendment by retaliating against her based on an erroneous belief that she had spoken to the press about cheating in the District. Doc. #1. The District answered the complaint on October 5, 2016. Doc. #6.

         On August 7, 2017, following a period of discovery, the District filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #26. Stuckey responded in opposition to the motion on August 21, 2017. Doc. #30. On August 28, 2017, the District replied, Doc. #32; and also filed a motion to strike portions of an affidavit of Stuckey submitted in response to the summary judgment motion, Doc. #33. Stuckey responded in opposition to the motion to strike on September 11, 2017, Doc. #34; and the District replied on September 18, 2017, Doc. #35.

         II

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[s]ummary judgment is proper only when the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar, 844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party and material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.” Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d 222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). On a motion for summary judgment, a court must “consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841 F.3d 360, 363 (5th Cir. 2016).

         In seeking summary judgment, “[t]he moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). If the moving party satisfies this burden, “the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Cos., Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).

         III

         Motion to Strike

         In its motion to strike, the District “requests that those portions of plaintiff's affidavit which are inadmissible hearsay, speculation and not based upon personal knowledge of the plaintiff be stricken ....” Doc. #33 at 3. In response, Stuckey argues that the motion fails to specifically identify the allegedly improper statements. Doc. #34. The District's reply specifically identifies approximately thirty statements sought to be excluded. Doc. #35.

         It is axiomatic that neither hearsay nor statements not based on personal knowledge may create a genuine issue of material fact. See Harris ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635 F.3d 685, 692 (5th Cir. 2011) (“Hearsay evidence inadmissible at trial cannot be used to create a genuine issue of material fact to avoid summary judgment.”); Bolen v. Dengel, 340 F.3d 300, 313 (5th Cir. 2003) (affidavit not based on personal knowledge “fails the requirements of summary judgment evidence”). However, a “court is not required ...


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