United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment discrimination action is before the Court on the
defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. #29.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[s]ummary judgment is proper only if the pleadings and
record materials reveal no genuine issue as to any material
fact.” Renwick v. PNK Lake Charles, L.L.C.,
901 F.3d 605, 611 (5th Cir. 2018). “A material fact is
one that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing
law, and a fact issue is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Id. (quotation marks and citations
omitted). In making these determinations, a court “must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, drawing all justifiable inferences in the
non-movant's favor.” Id. (quotation marks
and alterations omitted).
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of
identifying the portions of the record that demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the
nonmovant must then point to or produce specific facts
demonstrating that there is a genuine issue of material
fact.” James v. Woods, 899 F.3d 404, 407 (5th
Cir. 2018) (citation 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).
10, 2017, Alsee McDaniel, acting pro se,  filed a complaint
in this Court against the City of Indianola,  Steve Rosenthal,
Larry Brown, Gary Fratesi, Ruben Woods, Dana Myrick, and
Carver Randle, Jr. Doc. #1. The complaint, without
distinguishing between the defendants, alleges a claim of
wrongful termination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,
and a claim of defamation under state law. Id. at
2-3. After receiving an extension to respond to the
complaint, the defendants filed a joint answer on October 4,
2017. Doc. #8.
a period of discovery, the defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment on McDaniel's claims. Doc. #29. McDaniel
responded in opposition to the motion, and the defendants
replied. Doc. #33; Doc. #35.
their initial memorandum, the defendants, apparently
expecting the introduction of certain documents, objected on
the ground of hearsay to the consideration of newspaper
articles in deciding the motion for summary judgment. Doc.
#30 at 3. The defendants also raised a hearsay objection to
the introduction of affidavit evidence setting forth the
“lay opinion of Plaintiff's sister sitting as a
concerned citizen at [city] meetings.” Id.
response to the motion for summary judgment, McDaniel did not
introduce affidavit evidence of his sister's opinions. He
did, however, submit two newspaper articles and one
editorial. See Docs. #33-3, #33-4, #33-5. McDaniel
argues these documents are admissible because they are
self-authenticating and because it is undisputed the
editorial was written by Rosenthal, a defendant in this
action. Doc. #34 at 6.
requirement of authenticity necessitates that the piece of
evidence be what it purports to be. Fed.R.Evid. 901(a). In
contrast, the rule against hearsay asks whether the piece of
evidence falls under the general definition of hearsay set
forth in Federal Rule of Evidence 801(c) (an out of court
statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter
asserted), whether the evidence is properly excluded from the
definition of hearsay under Rule 801(d), and whether the
evidence falls under any of Rule 803's exceptions to the
rule against hearsay. Thus, “authentication is a
separate requirement from the hearsay rules.”
United States v. One 1968 Piper Navajo Twin Engine
Aircraft, 594 F.2d 1040, 1042 (5th Cir. 1979).
“Merely because a document is authenticated does not
mean it is admissible. It may, for example, need to meet the
hearsay requirements if it is offered to prove the truth of
the assertions made in it.” Id. (citation
introduced for the truth of the matter asserted, newspaper
articles are “classic, inadmissible hearsay”
which may not be used to defeat a motion for summary
judgment. Roberts v. City of Shreveport, 397 F.3d
287, 295 (5th Cir. 2005). There is no dispute that the two
articles offered by McDaniel are introduced for the truth of
the matter asserted and, therefore, are properly excluded as
newspaper articles are generally considered inadmissible
hearsay, admissions of a party opponent are excluded from the
definition of hearsay under Federal Rule of Evidence
801(d)(2). Under this rule, “letters to the editor
written [by a defendant] can be considered as
admissions.” Gorski v. Bd. of Trustees of Cmty.
Coll. of Dist. No. 504, Cty. of Cook, 93-c-3918, 1994 WL
395836, at *3 (N.D. Ill. July 25, 1994). Here, the letter to
the editor was authored by Rosenthal in his capacity as mayor
of the City of Indianola and sets forth specific reasons for
McDaniel's termination. See Doc. #33-5. The
letter, therefore, is not hearsay to the extent it is offered
against either Rosenthal or the City.
McDaniel, an African American man, graduated from Harvard Law
School in 1978. Doc. #29-1 at 4. The same year, McDaniel
became licensed to practice law in the State of Mississippi.
Rosenthal became the mayor of the City of Indianola,
Mississippi, in 2010. Doc. #29-2 at 3-4. At the time
Rosenthal became mayor, Howard Davis, a white man, served as
the Municipal Court Judge for the City. Id. at 38.
Due to complaints regarding collections and lax sentences in
Davis' court, Rosenthal asked Davis to appear before the
City's Board of Aldermen (“Board”).
Id. at 39. Davis twice appeared before the Board to
give “explanations” for the identified
deficiencies. Id. at 40. Sometime before the end of
2011, and approximately six to eight months after the second
of these meetings, Davis resigned. Id. at 39.
after Davis resigned, Rosenthal submitted a recommendation to
the Board that Richard Noble, a white man, be hired for the
vacancy created by Davis' departure. Doc. #29-2 at 5. The
Board ultimately rejected this recommendation and, sometime
in 2011, voted to appoint McDaniel to the vacancy.
Id. at 5; Doc. #29-1 at 18. At the time, the Board
was comprised of five individuals: Carver Randle, Larry
Brown, Gary Fratesi, Dana Myrick, and “Mrs.
Jenkins.” Doc. #29-2 at 4. Of these five, two were
white (Fratesi and Brown) and three were African American
(Jenkins, Myrick, and Randle). Id. at 4-5.
McDaniel was hired, the City had more than four million
dollars outstanding in uncollected fines. Doc. #29-1 at
57-58. Almost immediately after McDaniel's hire, there
were complaints about his collection of fines. Id.
McDaniel was “called in” to meet with city
officials about this issue “a couple of times a year or
more.” Id. at 58. In addition to the issue
with fine collections, Rosenthal was concerned about the rate
at which McDaniel was continuing cases. Doc. #29-2 at 14-15.
Sometime between 2012 and 2014, McDaniel met with Rosenthal
and then-Chief of Police Moffett about the continuances
“because police officers were having to come
back” to court, and Moffett “was frustrated by
the overtime that was being generated by that.”
Id. at 15.
response to the concerns about collection of fines, McDaniel
recommended the adoption of a policy regarding the imposition
and collection of fines. Doc. #29-1 at 30-32. This policy,
which required the payment of a fine prior to the date of
trial or the entry of a plea or judgment, went into effect in
2013,  and was approved by the Board sometime
later. According to Rosenthal, the policy was
followed in the court “for two or three weeks in
13, ” and then for approximately six months after
the Board approved it. Doc. #29-2 at 43.
point after 2014, Moffett was replaced by Richard
O'Bannon as the Chief of Police. Id. at 15-16.
On at least two occasions between 2014 and 2015, Rosenthal