United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jeffrey Wolfe is a police officer who works for the City of
Town and Country Police Department. He brings this case under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Town and Country,
the City's Mayor, the members of the Board of Alderman,
and the Chief of Police, all in their official capacities. He
alleges that defendants violated his First Amendment rights
of intimate association when they demoted him because of his
relationship with another officer.
deny defendants' motion to dismiss. Wolfe has plausibly
stated a claim that defendants violated his constitutional
rights, and so at this early stage of the case the claim
survives. He also sufficiently alleges that this was done as
part of the official policy of the City of Town and Country,
because the action was taken by the highest decision-makers
and affirmed by the Board of Aldermen, which is the
policy-making body of the City. I will strike the claim for
punitive damages as requested by defendants, which plaintiff
does not oppose, but the case will proceed in all other
has been a police officer for the City of Town and Country
for twenty-six years and a supervisor for the past twenty-two
years. Complaint, ECF 1 at ¶ 12. Defendants are the City
of Town and Country, the Board of Aldermen, the Mayor, and
the Chief of Police. The individual defendants are sued in
their official capacities. Id. at ¶ 2-7. In
2012, Wolfe was promoted to the rank of sergeant; before the
alleged incident he had performed his duties satisfactorily.
Id. at ¶ 12. In March 2017, an
“unbecoming conduct complaint” was filed against
Wolfe regarding allegations of a relationship with another
Town and Country police officer. Id. at ¶ 13.
was ordered to undergo a polygraph examination as part of the
investigation. Id. at ¶ 13 and ¶ 14. In
that test Wolfe was asked whether he and the subordinate
officer had made plans for a vacation together and whether,
“Prior to about four weeks ago, ” he had physical
sexual contact with her, which he denied. Id. at
¶ 17 and ¶ 18. The polygraph examiner reported that
in his opinion Wolfe had been truthful in his statements
during the test. Id. at ¶ 19. The investigation
of Wolfe concluded with a finding that he did not show
preferential treatment to any officer. Id. at ¶
22. In April 2017, Chief of Police Kranz informed Wolfe that
he was demoted to Corporal and his compensation was reduced.
Id. at ¶ 20. Wolfe exercised his right of
appeal to the Board of Aldermen, which affirmed the demotion.
Id. at ¶ 24-27.
alleges that he did not engage in a relationship with the
other officer while he was the officer's supervisor.
Id. at ¶ 23. He alleges that his actions did
not violate any Town and Country policy or regulation
regarding workplace fraternization. Id. at ¶ 28
and 30. Wolfe further alleges that the defendants demoted him
under color of state law and this action was a final policy
or was approved by those with final policy-making authority.
Id. at ¶ 36.
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R.
Civ. P., is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes
the factual allegations of a complaint are true and construes
them in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). Rule 8(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P.,
provides that a complaint must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” In Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, the Supreme Court clarified that under Rule
8(a)(2) a complaint must contain “more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007);
accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79
(2009). Specifically, to survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain enough factual allegations, accepted
as true, to state a claim for relief “that is plausible
on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. I must
accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and
construe them in plaintiff's favor, but I am not required
to accept the legal conclusions the plaintiff draws from the
facts alleged. Id. at 555; Retro Television
Network, Inc. v. Luken Commc'ns, LLC, 696 F.3d 766,
768-69 (8th Cir. 2012).
argue that a police officer has no constitutional right to
intimate association with another officer in an off-duty
relationship. They additionally argue that even if there is
such a right, municipal liability cannot be imposed here
because Wolfe has not alleged a governmental policy that
caused him injury. Finally, defendants argue that any
infringement on Wolfe's constitutional rights is
outweighed by the governmental interest in maintaining an
orderly, safe, efficient, fair and trusted police
department. ECF # 17 at p. 9.
state a plausible § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege
a violation of a constitutional right and must show the
alleged deprivation was committed by a person “acting
under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988). A municipality may be held liable under
§ 1983 if the municipality, “under color of any
statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State
..., subjected, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States … to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 may impose
liability upon a municipality when a municipal custom or
policy resulted in the deprivation of a right protected by
the constitution or federal law. Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690
Supreme Court has recognized that a decision “to enter
into and maintain certain intimate human relationships”
is a form of freedom of association that “receives
protection as a fundamental element of personal
liberty.” Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S.
609, 617-18 (1984). The Supreme Court explained that:
[T]he constitutional shelter afforded such relationships
reflects the realization that individuals draw much of their
emotional enrichment from close ties with others. Protecting
these relationships from unwarranted state interference
therefore safeguards the ability independently to define
one's identity that is central to any concept of liberty.
Id. at 619 (internal citations omitted). In
Roberts the Court found it unnecessary to precisely
identify every factor that would entitle such relationships
to protection, but noted that “such attributes as
relative smallness, a high degree of selectivity in decisions
to begin and maintain the affiliation, and seclusion from
others in critical aspects of the relationship” are
factors that may define such relationships. Id. at
619, 620. Later, in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558
(2003), the Supreme Court further explained that “the
State is not omnipresent in the home… ...