Eleventh Amendment Bars Deputy’s §1983 and ADA Claims

February 18, 2015

Earlier last month the Eleventh Circuit held that a former Deputy Sheriffs’ wrongful termination claims under § 1983 and the ADA were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Pellitteri v. Pine, 2015 WL 151112.

On appeal, Sheriff Prine of Lowndes County argued that he acted as an “arm of the state” when exercising his power to hire and fire his deputies because all of his law enforcement powers were derived from the State of Georgia. The Eleventh Circuit agreed holding that the sheriff acted as an “arm of the state” when exercising his power to hire and fire his deputies in assessing the four Manders factors.

Importantly, the Court distinguished its decision in Keene v. Prine, where it held that “sheriffs are largely independent from the State when they make personnel decisions.” 477 F. App’x 575 (11th Cir. 2012) (per curiam). Specifically, the Court found that: 1) the State exercised a great deal of control over hiring and firing of deputy sheriffs; and 2) that Keene strayed from the “key question” of the Manders function-by-function inquiry, which “is not what . . . powers sheriffs have, but for whom sheriffs exercise that power.” The Court concluded that sheriffs do not exercise the authority for themselves but rather select deputies to assist them in executing their own duties, which have been delegated to them by the State. After weighing the four Manders factors, the Court found that the first three factors weighed in favor of immunity and that “on balance, we conclude that Sheriff Prine enjoys Eleventh Amendment immunity against Ms. Pellitteri’s wrongful termination claims.”

Sovereign immunity can act as an absolute bar to your suit. If you believe you have a case against a state, city or county agency please contact our firm immediately at 404-873-8048 or firm@pcwlawfirm.com.

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