February 02nd, 2021
Haddock v. Tarrant County
Opinion Date: February 1, 2021
Judge: Edith Brown Clement
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law
Plaintiff filed suit against seven district judges of Tarrant County's family law courts in their official capacities, District Judge Patricia Baca-Bennett in her personal capacity, and the County under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that she was fired for refusing to support a political candidate and for her husband's political activity. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit, holding that plaintiff was in a policymaking and confidential role and thus, under the Elrod/Branti exception, could constitutionally be discharged for the exercise of rights that would otherwise by protected by the First Amendment. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's claims against the County because plaintiff failed to plead a constitutional violation. Furthermore, because Baca-Bennett did not violate plaintiff's constitutional rights, this is enough for Baca-Bennett to be entitled to qualified immunity. Even if plaintiff's rights had been violated, Baca-Bennett certainly did not have "fair warning that [her] conduct violate[d] a constitutional right."
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