United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTIONS TO
E. Hudson United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Plaintiff Derrick Jason Greer ("Plaintiff) filed his
five-count Compliant on October 19, 2016. (ECF No. 1.)
Plaintiffs allegations center on the events surrounding the
termination of his employment as a police officer for the
city of Petersburg, Virginia. Plaintiff alleges defamation,
retaliation in violation of the First Amendment of the United
States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia,
violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution, and supervisor
liability for the alleged retaliation.
Complaint names seven defendants. They include the Petersburg
Bureau of Police ("Bureau"), four individual police
officers, an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, and the
former Petersburg City Attorney. Six of the Defendants have
filed motions to dismiss. Defendant Tiffany Buckner
("Buckner"), Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
for the City of Petersburg, has moved to dismiss the
defamation and retaliation claims raised against her. (ECF
No. 18.) Defendant John I. Dixon, III ("Chief
Dixon"), former Chief of the Petersburg Bureau of
Police, has moved to dismiss the defamation and supervisor
liability claims raised against him. (ECF No. 14.) The
Bureau, Sergeant Hervie Cheatham ("Sgt. Cheatham"),
and Sergeant Haywood James, III (" Sgt. James")
have moved to dismiss the defamation claims raised against
them. (ECF No. 30.) And Captain Edwin Jones ("Capt.
Jones") has moved to dismiss the supervisor liability
claim raised against him. (ECF No. 30.) The only other
defendant, Brian K. Telfair, former Petersburg City Attorney,
has not moved to dismiss any claims but rather filed an
answer. (ECF No. 17.)
parties have filed memoranda supporting their respective
positions. The Court will dispense with oral argument because
the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in
the materials before the Court, and oral argument would not
aid in the decisional process. E.D. Va. Loc. Civ. R. 7(J).
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants'
required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded
allegations to be true and views all facts in the light most
favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P.
& Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th
Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7
F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the
Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the
four corners of Plaintiffs Complaint. Viewed through this
lens, the facts are as follows.
worked as a Petersburg police officer from June 2014 until
his termination in November 2015. (See Compl.
¶¶ 21, 109.) At all relevant times, Chief Dixon,
Capt. Jones, Sgt. Cheatham, and Sgt. James also worked for
the Bureau. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16, 19, 20.)
January 29, 2015, Plaintiff executed a search warrant on the
Petersburg residence of Jeffrey Fisher. (Id. ¶
24.) Plaintiffs partner, Detective Shane Noblin, and several
other Petersburg police officers assisted in the search.
(Id. ¶ 25.) Afterward, Fisher was charged with
multiple drug and firearm-related crimes. (Id.
alleges that, during the search, he witnessed officers
intentionally destroying private property and evidence.
(See Id. ¶¶ 30-47.) On September 10, 2015,
during an investigation into the search of Fisher's
residence, Plaintiff gave a formal statement to Sgt. James in
which he described the officer misconduct. (Id.
¶¶ 162-63.) In his statement, Plaintiff also
admitted that while searching the house, he noticed some
candy on the floor, which he picked up, unwrapped, and ate.
(See Id. ¶¶ 48-52, 164.)
Noblin retired from the Bureau in May 2015. (Id.
¶ 62.) Plaintiff was thus required to take over many of
Detective Noblin's pending cases. (Id. at 63.)
But Plaintiff was troubled by some of Detective Noblin's
previous conduct. So, in June 2015, Plaintiff approached
Buckner and expressed his discomfort in continuing the
investigations of Detective Noblin's pending cases.
(Id. ¶¶ 64-65.) He urged Buckner to
dismiss Detective Noblin's cases, stating that
"everybody knows [Detective Noblin] is dirty."
(Id. ¶ 66.) However, Buckner disregarded
Plaintiffs concerns. (Id. ¶ 67.)
October 5, 2015, Plaintiff attended a preliminary hearing for
one of Detective Noblin's former cases. (Id.
¶ 78.) Still wary of Detective Noblin's prior
conduct, Plaintiff met with the defendant's attorney and
an investigator for the Petersburg Public Defender's
Office. (Id. ¶ 79.) Plaintiff explained to them
his belief that "Detective Noblin was dirty."
(Id. ¶ 80.) He also stated that he had raised
his concerns with Buckner, but that she had ignored them.
(Id. ¶ 82.)
investigator for the Public Defender's Office
communicated Plaintiffs concerns to Fisher's attorney.
(See Id. ¶ 83.) Accordingly, armed with the
allegations about Detective Noblin's dishonest conduct
and Buckner's indifference, Fisher moved for Buckner to
be removed from his case and for her to be replaced by a
special prosecutor. (Id. ¶¶ 83-85.) The
court granted that motion during a hearing on October 20,
2015. (See Id. ¶ 88.)
after the hearing, "Buckner approached Plaintiff and
yelled at [him]." (Id. ¶ 89.) Buckner then
reported to Chief Dixon that "Plaintiff made false
statements concerning Detective Noblin." (Id.
¶¶ 129, 132.)
same day, October 20, 2015, Sgt. Cheatham issued Plaintiff a
"Notification to Employee of Investigation, "
marked with the identifier IAU# 15-08. (Id. ¶
90.) IAU# 15-08 included the statement: "The Chief of
Police has received allegations from Assistant Commonwealth
Attorney Tiffany Buckner regarding the subject employee that
has brought the Bureau into disrepute. The credibility of the
officer's prior and future testimonies are questionable
at this juncture." (Id. ...