United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ROBIN MAYFIELD; OWEN MAYFIELD; WILLIAM MAYFIELD; THE ESTATE OF MARK STEVENS MAYFIELD PLAINTIFFS
BUTLER SNOW LLP; DONALD CLARK, JR.; THE CITY OF MADISON, MISSISSIPPI; MARY HAWKINS-BUTLER, Individually and in her Official Capacity; POLICE CHIEF GENE WALDROP, Individually and in his Official Capacity; CHUCK HARRISON, Individually and in his Official Capacity; VICKIE CURRIE, Individually and in her Official Capacity; RICHARD WILBOURN, III; JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-10 DEFENDANTS AND THAD COCHRAN MOVANT
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mayfield lived in Madison County, Mississippi. He and his
wife, Robin, were proud parents of two sons, Owen and
William. He practiced real estate law, was active in the
Baptist Church, and was a founder of the Mississippi Tea
2014, Mayfield's activism led him to volunteer for a
political campaign. He enthusiastically supported State
Senator Chris McDaniel's effort to unseat U.S. Senator
Thad Cochran. Sadly, Mayfield's actions during that
campaign would ultimately lead to his death.
before the Court are a variety of motions in which the
defendants seek to be relieved of liability for
Mayfield's passing. All will be discussed below.
Factual and Procedural History
following allegations and quotes are drawn from the amended
complaint. They are taken as true for present purposes.
2014, Mississippi was due to elect someone to the United
States Senate. A contentious Republican Party primary was
underway. Many members of the Mississippi Tea Party supported
State Senator Chris McDaniel's attempt to oust incumbent
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran. Mark Mayfield was among those Tea
Partiers. He got involved with the McDaniel campaign.
supporters perceived themselves to be up against a
politically and financially powerful “Republican
Establishment.” Cochran had been a U.S. Senator since
1978. His reelection campaign had the backing of many
powerful Mississippians and institutions, including
Mississippi's “most politically connected and
powerful law firm”-Butler Snow LLP. The firm, based in
Ridgeland, has offices throughout the southeastern United
States and other parts of the country, including Washington,
D.C., Boston, and Denver, and even as far away as London and
Singapore. The firm's members include former Republican
National Committee Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley
Barbour, former U.S. Senator David Vitter, and other
ex-politicians. Cochran's reelection campaign also drew
support from many other state and local politicians.
McDaniel camp thought the Republican Establishment was
playing dirty. According to the amended complaint, Butler
Snow was providing legal and financial support to
Cochran's campaign and an
“independent” Super PAC supporting Cochran's
reelection effort. If true, that coordination would violate
federal election law. The amended complaint alleges that the
Super PAC, called “Mississippi Conservatives, ”
was organized and operated by Haley Barbour and his family.
It further claims that Barbour was secretly and illegally
providing financial guarantees to Trustmark National Bank so
that the Super PAC could get a bank loan. When the secret
loan was finally unearthed, the Federal Election Commission
fined the Super PAC $19, 000.
supporters John Mary, Rick Sager, Clayton Kelly, and Richard
Wilbourn III (“the conspirators”) decided to
fight back. They thought Cochran was a hypocrite and an
adulterer who lived with his longtime aide in Washington,
D.C. while his aging wife, Rose, was left alone in a Madison,
Mississippi assisted living facility called St.
Catherine's Village. The conspirators planned to take a
photo of the bedridden Mrs. Cochran and use it in an attack
ad against Cochran.
conspirators sought Mayfield's assistance, knowing that
his mother also lived in St. Catherine's Village.
Mayfield refused to photograph Mrs. Cochran but agreed to
“show where the room was.” So in late March or
early April 2014, Mayfield met Wilbourn at St.
Catherine's Village. Mayfield “pointed Wilbourn
down the hall . . . to where Rose Cochran's room was
located.” Easter Sunday fell on April 20. That day,
Kelly went to Mrs. Cochran's room and took a video of her
lying in her bed. He posted an attack ad on YouTube six days
later. The ad contained a still photo of Mrs. Cochran in her
bed. The video went viral and was taken down in a matter of
and his campaign retained Don Clark, the chairman of Butler
Snow, to represent them in the Rose Cochran
“incident.” In mid-May, Clark told the Mayor of
the City of Madison, Mary Hawkins-Butler, that the incident
should be treated criminally, as it was a possible case of
exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The Mayor referred him to
Madison Police Chief Gene Waldrop. Clark then pitched various
criminal charges to Chief Waldrop and his officers. The
Police Department decided to pursue the matter.
16, the Madison Police Department arrested Kelly and charged
him with exploitation of a vulnerable adult. At that moment
Mayfield and Wilbourn were campaigning for McDaniel at the
Ross Barnett Reservoir. Additional charges would later be
brought against Kelly. He eventually pled guilty to burglary.
22, the Madison Police Department arrested Mayfield, Mary,
and Sager for conspiracy. The basis for Mayfield's arrest
warrant was Officer Vickie Currie's affidavit stating
that Mayfield had communicated with the other conspirators to
photograph Mrs. Cochran. The police also executed search
warrants on Mayfield's home and office. The basis for
those warrants was Officer Chuck Harrison's affidavits
indicating that Mayfield's office would have evidence
that he inflicted pain on a vulnerable person. Mayfield's
bond was set at $250, 000.
largest client, Trustmark National Bank, abandoned him the
next day. That caused the “complete collapse of his law
practice.” Mayfield became depressed, sought
professional help, and was prescribed medication for sleep,
depression, and anxiety. His wife experienced similar
symptoms and was also prescribed medication.
27, 2014, Robin Mayfield found her husband in their basement,
dead of a gunshot wound to the head. He was 57. The coroner
ruled it a suicide.
her sons, and the Mayfield estate filed this suit three years
later. They assert wrongful death, civil conspiracy,
negligent infliction of emotional distress, § 1983, and
related causes of action against Butler Snow, Clark, the City
of Madison, Mayor Hawkins-Butler, Chief Waldrop, Officer
Harrison, Officer Currie, and Wilbourn. The plaintiffs claim
that the defendants violated rights guaranteed by the First,
Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution.
plaintiffs have a variety of grievances. They say the Cochran
campaign and Butler Snow pressed charges for political
advantage so that they could smear the McDaniel campaign for
associating with criminals. They say Mayor Hawkins-Butler and
members of her City's police department were longtime
Cochran supporters who arrested Mayfield in retaliation for
his political views. They say the police were wrong to charge
Mayfield at all because his speech- disclosing Mrs.
Cochran's room number to Wilbourn-was protected by the
First Amendment, and that the police further erred by
charging him with a felony, since the value of any
exploitation did not exceed $250. They say the District
Attorney's Office falsely and recklessly blamed Mayfield
for giving Kelly the location of Mrs. Cochran's room,
when in fact Mayfield told Wilbourn, who then told
Kelly. They say Butler Snow and the City of Madison were in
cahoots because Butler Snow has represented the City in bond
issuances and lobbying for years. They express anger and
heartbreak at Wilbourn's betrayal of Mayfield, his
purported friend, and disbelief that the authorities never
charged Wilbourn with conspiracy.
defendants have all responded with motions to dismiss. They
contend that Mayfield's arrest was supported by probable
cause, that his claims are untimely, and that his death was
his responsibility alone.
Motions to Dismiss
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true
and makes reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A
satisfactory complaint will “contain a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Id. at 677-78 (quotation marks and
citation omitted). This requires “more than an
unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation,
” but the complaint need not have “detailed
factual allegations.” Id. at 678 (quotation
marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff's claims must
also be plausible on their face, which means there is
“factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted).
defendants have invoked the defense of qualified immunity.
immunity shields government officials from civil damages
liability insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Pasco ex rel.
Pasco v. Knoblauch, 566 F.3d 572, 578 (5th Cir. 2009)
(quotation marks and citation omitted). “More
precisely, the contours of the right must be sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would understand that what
he is doing violates that right . . . in the light of
pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent.”
Id. (quotation marks, citation, and brackets
motion to dismiss stage, a qualified immunity analysis
requires the Court to decide “(1) whether facts alleged
or shown by plaintiff make out the violation of a
constitutional right, and (2) if so, whether that right was
clearly established at the time of the defendant's
alleged misconduct.” Id. at 579 (citations