United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
JONATHAN D. BAILEY, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL BARRETT, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
filed this suit in state court, alleging that (1) his rights
under the United States and Missouri Constitutions were
violated when his employment was terminated because of
statements that he made on matters of public concern, and (2)
he is entitled to the return of personal property that was in
his office. Defendants removed the case to federal court, and
then filed a Motion to Dismiss. As discussed below, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff has not stated a legally viable
claim based on the Missouri Constitution, so the Motion to
Dismiss, (Doc. 10), is granted to that extent.
Defendants' motion is denied in all other respects.
to the Petition filed in state court (which the Court
hereafter refers to as the Complaint), Plaintiff was a trial
attorney for the Missouri State Public Defender System,
(“MSPD”). He worked for District 16, which covers
Jackson County, from February 26, 2013 until he was fired on
June 28, 2017. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 17-18, ¶¶ 3,
At the time of Plaintiff's termination, Defendant Michael
Barrett was the Director of MSPD, and Defendant Ellen Blau
was the Trial Division Director for MSPD; their offices were
in Columbia and St. Louis, respectively. (Doc. 1-1, p. 17,
¶ 4.) Both Defendants “were responsible for
employment decisions within the Trial Division.” (Doc.
1-1, p. 18, ¶ 9.)
approximately June 26, 2017, Plaintiff learned that Barret
“had received an award for being the most outstanding
Public Defender. In response, [Plaintiff] posted the
following on Facebook.
What a joke. The outstanding public defender of the year is
our director. . . . I'm still waiting for ANY CHANGE TO
ACTUALLY BE INITIATED BY THE SYSTEM INSTEAD OF RIDICULOUS GO
NOWHERE PUBLICITY STUNTS!! Here's an idea - give an award
to an actual attorney that fights for clients, instead of
glad handing and going no where [sic] in Jeff City and not
having balls to decline cases, go to non-vertical
representation, or a million other practical things that
would actually help our system.”
(Doc. 1-1, p. 19, ¶ 14 (capitalization in original).)
next day, Plaintiff met with Leon Munday, the Deputy Trial
Division Director, and Joseph Meggerman, the Assistant
District Defender for District 16. During the meeting
Plaintiff discussed his concerns about MSPD policies and
practices and proposed reforms. The Complaint's
description of this meeting does not indicate that there was
any disruption, disharmony, or other effect from
Plaintiff's Facebook post. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 19-20,
¶¶ 15-16.) The day after Plaintiff's meeting
with Munday and Meggerman, both Defendants “travelled
to the Kansas City trial office, where [Plaintiff] was
working, ” and Blau met with Plaintiff. (Doc. 1-1, p.
16, ¶ 18.) “Blau told [Plaintiff] his employment
was terminated as a result of his speech, calling it
‘insubordination.'” (Doc. 1-1, p. 16, ¶
Complaint contains two counts. Count I alleges that
Plaintiff's termination violated his rights under
“the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution and similar provisions in the
Constitution of Missouri.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 24, ¶
28.) Count II seeks the return of “personal,
professional-related material on the MSPD computer system,
” including “form pleadings, motions, research,
resumes, and CLE presentation material.” (Doc. 1-1, p.
10, ¶ 33.) Defendants contend that all of the claims
should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, and the
claim under the United States Constitution should also be
dismissed based on qualified immunity. Plaintiff has not
addressed Defendants' arguments about the Missouri
Constitution, but opposes dismissal of his other claims. The
Court resolves these issues below.
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court “must accept as true all of the complaint's
factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable
to the Plaintiff[ ].” Stodghill v. Wellston School
Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 2008).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The
plausibility standard is not akin to a probability
requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint
pleads facts that are merely consistent with a
defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quotations and citations omitted). A claim is facially
plausible if it allows the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. E.g., Horras
v. American Capital Strategies, Ltd., 729 F.3d 798, 801
(8th Cir. 2013).
based on an affirmative defense - such as qualified immunity
- is permissible if the Complaint establishes that the
defense exists. E.g., C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. v.
Lobrano,695 F.3d 758, 763-64 (8th Cir. 2012).
“Qualified immunity involves the following two-step
inquiry: (1) whether the facts shown by the plaintiff make
out a violation of a constitutional or statutory right, and
(2) whether that right was clearly ...