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Dismissed civil suit appealed

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A former county employee has appealed her recently dismissed federal civil lawsuit to the United States Court of Appeals.

Two weeks ago, District Court Judge Harry S. Mattice dismissed Cynthia L. Ray's suit against the county and trustee Tonya Davis filed in late 2010, claiming she had been fired for openly supporting Davis' opponent during that year's election.

She claims Davis and the county violated her 1st and 14th Amendment rights, state rights, fired her in retaliation for exercising her constitutional rights, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

Mattice dismissed the federal part of the suit "with prejudice," meaning that it could not be refiled in federal court, also dismissing "without prejudice" the state claims in the case. But now Davis has appealed the matter to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dismissal reason

In his ruling, Mattice cited "the Elrod-Branti exception," which states that certain public employees in confidential and policy making positions may be dismissed on the basis of their political affiliation without violating the First Amendment.

Mattice pointed out that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside four categories of positions that fall under the exception, ruling that Ray's job fell under both the second and third categories.

The judge noted that Ray held the ad hoc position of business manager, an office held in no other trustee's office, and that Ray "was hired by, and continued to work for, her mother for over twenty years while her mother served as the County Trustee."

"These two facts, while alone insufficient to establish the applicability of the Elrod-Branti exception, do suggest a strong likelihood that (Ray's) position was inherently political," Mattice wrote.