Curtis v. Christian County, No. 19-1213 (8th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Sheriff's Office appealed the district court's denial of qualified immunity on First Amendment wrongful-discharge claims brought by former Deputy Sheriffs Timothy Bruce and Robert Curtis. Bruce and Curtis's complaints alleged that Cole, the newly elected sheriff, discharged them for political reasons in violation of their First Amendment rights.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity, holding that political loyalty is an appropriate requirement for the job of deputy sheriff under Missouri law because of the closeness and cooperation required between sheriffs and their deputies in fulfilling overlapping duties. In this case, Cole did not violate Bruce and Curtis's constitutional rights. Consequently, the county is also entitled to summary judgment on the claims against it. The court remanded for further proceedings.