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Eleventh Amendment Immunity Applies to Florida Sheriff Acting as Chief Corrections Officer

A Florida federal district court held a Florida Sheriff, in his capacity as Chief Corrections Officer (CCO), is an arm of the state.  The holding led the court to determine the Sheriff is entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity when acting in that capacity.

Before the court was the motion for summary judgment filed by the Broward County Sheriff in a lawsuit brought by Jeffrey Stanley, who alleged he was fired for supporting a political opponent of the Sheriff.

Stanley had worked as a cross-certified detention deputy sheriff over six years for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO).  He resigned to accept a job as director of security at a new hospital opening in Miami Beach.  When the hospital failed to open as planned, Stanley reapplied at BSO as a guard in the jail.

He was temporarily rehired despite the fact he disagreed with a BSO policy mandating he receive lower pay than when he resigned.  Due to that policy, he backed Scott Israel over incumbent Al Lamberti during the 2008 election for Sheriff.  A few months after Lamberti was reelected, Stanley received notice that he would not be rehired because “areas of concern arose during the selection process.”

Stanley alleged in his suit that “BSO’s failure to rehire him was due to his support of Israel, in violation of his rights under the First Amendment.”  The district court found the disposition of BSO motion for summary judgment hinged on whether the Sheriff, when acting as CCO, is an arm of the State entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity.

The court applied the four prong test in Manders v. Lee 338 F. 3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003), which requires a determination of “(1) how state law defines the entity; (2) what degree of control the state maintains over the entity; (3) where the entity derives its funds; and (4) who is responsible for judgments against the entity.”

The court found three of the four factors weigh in favor of finding a Sheriff acting as CCO is an arm of the state.  As to the first factor, the court found “The statutory definition of the CCO is afforded more weight than of the sheriff generally.  As to personnel decisions, detention deputies is statutorily as area of state concern, for certain conduct.  Finally, the State’s Administration Commission is the “ultimate arbiter of budgetary disputes” between the CCO and the county.

While the BSO admitted that it must directly pay adverse judgments against it, the court held the other three factors compel it to hold the sheriff, when acting as CCO, is an arm of the state who cannot be sued without his consent.  The court, therefore, granted BSO’s motion for summary judgment.  See: Stanley v. Broward County Sheriff, S.D. Florida, Case No. 12-62406.

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Related legal case

Stanley v. Broward County Sheriff