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Saxton v. Town of Irmo Police Dep't

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

February 21, 2017

Keith Saxton, Plaintiff,
v.
Town of Irmo Police Dep't, Brian Buck, and Mark Shirley, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr.United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Keith Saxton (“Saxton” or “Plaintiff”), filed this action against his former employer, the Town of Irmo Police Department (“Irmo PD”), alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. Plaintiff has also asserted state law causes of action against Irmo PD for defamation and invasion of privacy. He has asserted state law causes of action against Mark Shirley (“Shirley”) for defamation and civil conspiracy. He has also asserted a state law cause of action for civil conspiracy against Brian Buck (“Buck”). This case was originally filed in the Lexington County Court of Common Pleas and subsequently removed to this court on March 17, 2015. (ECF No. 1). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge. Thereafter, Shirley filed a motion for summary judgement (ECF No. 50) and Buck, along with Irmo PD, filed a separate motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 54).

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that this court should dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII claim and remand the remaining state law claims back to the Lexington County Court of Common Pleas. (ECF No. 80). The Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation.

         Each party objected to the Report. All defendants object to the extent that the Report recommends a remand of all remaining state law claims back to the Lexington County court. (ECF No. 81, 84). Plaintiff objects to the dismissal of his Title VII claim, but supports a remand of the remaining claims in the event that this court dismisses the Title VII claim over his objections. (ECF No. 85).

         The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, this court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983).

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff has submitted two specific objections to the Report centering on the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the Title VII claim should be dismissed. Defendants have submitted several objections to the Magistrate Judge's refusal to address the state law claims and the recommendation to remand these claims back to state court.

         A. Plaintiff's Objections

         Plaintiff has outlined two specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's legal analysis of his Title VII claim. Specifically, Plaintiff states that “the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the Plaintiff has failed to present sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence that race was a motivating factor in his termination.” (ECF No. 85 p. 2). Additionally, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that “Plaintiff has failed to identify a proper comparator and/or establish pretext with respect to his race discrimination claim.” Id.

         Plaintiff does not object to the analytical framework articulated by the Magistrate Judge, but he does object to the application of that framework to the present facts. (ECF No. 85 p. 6). Plaintiff asserts that the record contains evidence sufficient to support an inference that his termination was racially motivated. Despite this assertion, the Magistrate Judge correctly concluded that Plaintiff's Title VII claim should be dismissed.

         Initially, Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge erroneously disregarded two points asserted by Plaintiff in support of his mixed-motive theory of discrimination. Namely, the Magistrate Judge failed to consider the fact that Plaintiff was one of only a few black police officers employed by the Irmo PD and that Irmo PD received several threats from Defendant Shirley, acknowledging that he did not like black people. Id. In responding to the Magistrate Judge's finding that “Plaintiff fails to point to any evidence in support of his assertions, ” Plaintiff cited to various instances in the record. Specifically, Plaintiff cites to deposition testimony stating Plaintiff was one of four black officers out of the total twenty-five officers employed by the Irmo PD. (ECF No. 85 p. 7). Additionally, Plaintiff cites to comments made by Defendant Shirley to his wife including, “it was one thing to have an affair but to have one with a black man is unforgivable.” Id.

         Although the Magistrate Judge did not acknowledge these instances from the record, he did state that even if this type of evidence was presented, “these assertions do not go towards any motivation on the part of the decision maker regarding actions taken against Plaintiff.” (ECF No. 80 p. 13). Indeed, these asserted points, even if true, have no bearing on Defendant Buck, the decision maker. None of Shirley's alleged statements had any effect on Buck. Additionally, the percentage of black employees does not impart any racially charged motivation to Buck when he made the decision to fire Plaintiff for failure to obey a direct command.

         Plaintiff also asserts that Shirley's original allegations of inappropriate conduct were never confirmed. Plaintiff's objection misses the mark. Regardless of the veracity of Shirley's original allegations that Plaintiff engaged in adulterous activity with Shirley's wife while on duty, Plaintiff was fired for failing to obey direct orders during the pendency of the investigation into Plaintiff's actions. (ECF No. 80 p. 8). Again, Defendant Shirley's ...


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