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Lawson v. Union County Clerk

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division

November 17, 2014

Melanie Lawson, Plaintiff,
v.
Union County Clerk of Court William F. " Freddie" Gault; William F. " Freddie" Gault, Individually, Defendants

Decided: November 14, 2014.

Page 585

For Melanie Lawson, Plaintiff: John G Reckenbeil, LEAD ATTORNEY, John G Reckenbeil Law Office, Spartanburg, SC.

For Union County Clerk of Court, William F ." Freddie" Gault, William F Gault, Individually, also known as, Freddie Gault, Defendants: Vance J Bettis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gignilliat Savitz and Bettis LLP, Columbia, SC.

Page 586

ORDER

Timothy M. Cain, United States District Judge.

The plaintiff, Melanie Lawson (" Lawson" ), brought this action against her former employer, William F. " Freddie" Gault (" Gault" ), the Union County Clerk of Court, in his individual and official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, to dismiss (ECF No. 26). The parties have fully briefed that motion (ECF Nos. 31, 32), and the court heard oral argument regarding the relevant issues on May 15, 2014.

The court issued its order in this case on August 14, 2014. (ECF No. 37). Thereafter, the defendants moved for this court to reconsider its order. (ECF No. 39). The parties fully briefed the motion to reconsider the opinion, and the court heard oral arguments on October 30, 2014. The court grants the motion to reconsider, and issues this order, which supersedes the court's order dated August 14, 2014.

BACKGROUND

The following is a summary of facts as stipulated to by the parties ( see ECF No. 25) and gleaned from the record. From 1992 until November 14, 2012, Lawson was employed by the Union County Clerk of Court. In 2009, the Governor appointed Gault as clerk of court, following the former clerk's resignation. At the time Gault was appointed, Lawson was a senior employee in the Family Court/Child Support division of the clerk's office. Shortly after his appointment, Gault hired a part-time employee to conduct bank reconciliations and formally appointed several staff members, including Lawson, to serve as deputy clerks of court. With the additional hire, the clerk's office had a full-time staff of ten and a part-time staff of one. However, in Union County, Lawson and three other employees worked in a building known as " the annex," separate and apart from Gault's office located in the courthouse. ( See Gault dep., ECF No. 26-4, p. 4.)

In March 2012, Lawson informed Gault that she intended to run in the June 2012 democratic primary for the office of Union County Clerk of Court. On March 30, 2012, after Lawson paid her filing fee and registered to run, Gault placed her on unpaid leave of absence. Lawson spent the next several months campaigning, touting her decades of experience and other qualifications. Throughout this period, Lawson did not involve anyone in the clerk's office in her campaign efforts. In the November 2012 general election, Lawson ran as a petition candidate against Gault, the Republican candidate, for Union County Clerk of Court. Gault won the election.

After the election, Gault asked to speak with Lawson. And, on November 14, 2012, Lawson met with Gault, who informed her that, in the best interest of the office, he was terminating her employment.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if, after reviewing the entire record in a case, the court is satisfied that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of fact is " genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury ...


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