Ex parte John Lambert.Annotate this Case
The Escambia County Board of Education terminated the employment of John Lambert, a tenured teacher, as the band director at Flomaton High School for leaving a pistol in his school office, which was locked. During the course of his teaching career and military service, Lambert was never charged with neglect of duty, insubordination, or failure to perform duties in a satisfactory manner. Before this incident, no school board had ever taken disciplinary action against Lambert, nor had Scott Hammond, the principal of Flomaton High School, ever disciplined Lambert. Before getting on a bus for a band trip where the students were waiting for Lambert to join them, Lambert placed a small bag on the desk in his office. The bag contained personal items, including clothing, tools, Lambertís checkbook, and 10 20-dollar bills in a folded bank envelope. The bank envelope was in the side pocket of the bag, which was zipped. Lambert placed the bag in his office because he did not want to leave it in his truck overnight while he was away on the trip. According to Lambert, he forgot that a loaded .380 automatic pistol and an additional loaded magazine were in a small case at the bottom of the bag. Both the case containing the pistol and the bag were zipped. The bag was black, and it was impossible to identify the contents of the bag from the exterior of the bag. Lambert, who had a permit for the pistol, testified that both his office door and the door to the band room were locked when he left for the band contest at approximately 8:00 a.m. Around noon that same day, a school custodian notified school administrators that a gun was found on school premises. Only Lambert, the custodian, and the principal had keys to Lambert's office. Lambert acknowledged the pistol was his, and discovered that $80 was missing from the bag. Lambert was placed on administrative leave, then later terminated. He appealed the Board's decision. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the decision of the hearing officer. The Supreme Court, however, reversed. "In light of the fact that this Court has resolved, as a material question of first impression, the standard of review a hearing officer is to apply to an employer's decision to terminate the employment of a tenured teacher, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remand the cause to that court to, in turn, reverse the judgment of the hearing officer and remand the cause to him with instructions to review the sanction imposed against Lambert under the arbitrary-and-capricious standard of review as that standard [was] articulated in this opinion."