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Morgan v. Hamp

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

May 29, 2018

VINCENT MORGAN PLAINTIFF
v.
TUNICA COUNTY SHERIFF K.C. HAMP, and REGINALD BOYKIN DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Vincent Morgan filed his Complaint [1] in this Court on May 26, 2017 against Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp in his individual and official capacities and Tunica County Deputy Sheriff Reginald Boykin in his individual and official capacities. In his Amended Complaint [29][1]Morgan, a bail bond agent, alleges three claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Morgan alleges that he was wrongly removed from the approved bail bond writing list in violation of his Constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment, Procedural Due Process, and Equal Protection. Morgan filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [50] requesting that the Court grant summary judgment as a matter of law in his favor as to liability. Hamp and Boykin dispute Morgan's claims and filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment [66] requesting summary judgment in their favor on all of Morgan's claims, or in the alternative, that the Court grant them qualified immunity. These motions are fully briefed and ripe for review.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Morgan, a bail bond agent, has been writing bail bonds in and around Tunica County since 2002. Sometime in 2014, the Plaintiff noticed a decline in his business with the Tunica County Jail. The Plaintiff launched his own investigation and concluded that the jail staff was diverting clients away from him in favor of other bail bond agents. The Plaintiff also alleges that in some cases, the jail staff diverted clients to their relatives in violation of Mississippi law. Concerned about the decline in business, and believing that the jail staff was disparaging his business in the process of diverting clients away from him, the Plaintiff complained on numerous occasions to the jail staff and to Defendant Boykin.

         The Plaintiff further alleges that in 2016, after the Plaintiff continued to voice his complaints, Defendants Boykin and Hamp threatened to remove the Plaintiff from the approved bail bond writing list if he did not stop complaining. Near the end of October 2016, Defendant Hamp removed the Plaintiff from the approved list and advised the Plaintiff's employer of the same in a letter dated November 8, 2016. Defendant Hamp asked the employer to assign a different bail bond agent to the jail, and the employer did so.

         According to the Defendants, the Plaintiff was continually disruptive to jail operations by constantly complaining. The Defendants also contend that they launched an internal affairs investigation into the Plaintiff's complaints, but the Plaintiff refused to cooperate with the investigation, and refused to lodge a complaint through any formal process. The Defendants contend that Defendant Hamp was the sole authority behind the decision to remove the Plaintiff from the approved list and that the Plaintiff was removed for being disruptive to jail operations and refusing to cooperate with the internal affairs investigation.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

         The 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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted).

         Procedural Due Process

         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states, in relevant part: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. Procedural Due Process “imposes constraints on governmental decisions that deprive individuals of ‘liberty' or ‘property' interests within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment.” Hampton Co. Nat. Sur., LLC v. Tunica Cty., Miss., 543 F.3d 221, 224 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976)). When a property interest is taken, “some form of hearing is required” before a final deprivation of the interest. Id. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants violated these rights by removing him from the approved list without a hearing.

         To invoke the protections of procedural due process a plaintiff must have suffered a deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Toler v. City of Greenville, No. 4:96-CV-34-D, 1997 WL 332168, at *3 (N.D. Miss. June 4, 1997) (citing Blackburn v. City of Marshall, 42 F.3d 925, 935 (5th Cir. 1995); San Jacinto Sav. & Loan v. Kacal, 928 F.2d 697, 700 (5th Cir. 1991); Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed. 548 (1972)).

In order for a person to have a property interest within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment, he must “have more than an abstract need need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must, ...

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