Bogan v. Scott-Harris

523 U.S. 44 (1998)

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Bogan v. Scott-Harris

United States Supreme Court
523 U.S. 44 (1998)

  • Written by Whitney Kamerzel , JD
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Facts

Janet Scott-Harris (plaintiff) was the sole permanent employee of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for Fall River, Massachusetts (the City) (defendant). Scott-Harris initiated the termination of Dorothy Biltcliffe, a temporary DHHS employee, because Biltcliffe allegedly made racial and ethnic slurs about colleagues. Biltcliffe, however, used her political connections to convince Marilyn Roderick (defendant), the vice president of the city council, and Daniel Bogan (defendant), the mayor, to reduce Biltcliffe’s punishment. Mayor Bogan subsequently signed an ordinance eliminating Scott-Harris’s position in response to anticipated state budget cuts, and the city council, with Roderick’s vote, adopted the ordinance. Scott-Harris sued Mayor Bogan, Roderick, and the City in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the elimination of Scott-Harris’s position was due to racial animus and in retaliation for punishing Biltcliffe. Mayor Bogan and Roderick filed a motion to dismiss based on their absolute legislative immunity. The district court dismissed this motion, holding that the jury’s finding that an unconstitutional intent motivated the ordinance separated the ordinance from legislative actions that typically enjoy legislative immunity. The court of appeals set aside the verdict against the City, but it affirmed the judgments against Mayor Bogan and Roderick. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

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