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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cops Challenging Firing Given Another Shot

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court gave new life Monday to a challenge over the firing of a pair of police officers from Shelby, Miss.

Tracy Johnson and David James Jr. say that Shelby's board of aldermen fired them, not because of deficient performance, but because they exposed the criminal activities of alderman Harold Billings.

A federal judge in Mississippi granted Shelby and Billings summary judgment, and the 5th Circuit affirmed last year in an unpublished opinion, based on the failure by the former officers to invoke the federal civil rights law, Section 1983 of Title 42, in their complaint.

The Supreme Court summarily reversed Monday, saying "federal pleading rules ... do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted."

Though precedent requires plaintiffs to "plead facts suffi­cient to show that [their] claim has substantive plausibility," the Supreme Court emphasized that the complaint by Johnson and James "was not deficient in that regard."

"Petitioners stated simply, concisely, and directly events that, they alleged, entitled them to damages from the city," the unsigned opinion states. "Having informed the city of the factual basis for their complaint, they were required to do no more to stave off threshold dismissal for want of an adequate statement of their claim."

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