8th Circuit partially affirms judgment in case of deputy clerk who alleged voting led to termination

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 19, 2018

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals partially affirmed a judgment in a case of a woman who alleged she lost her job because she voted on a Republican primary ticket instead of a Democratic one.

The appeal involved a woman who was hired as a deputy clerk in 2012 who was later fired allegedly because of who she voted for in the 2014 primary election, according to the June 7 decision.

The appeal was before Circuit Judges Roger Leland Wollman, Steven Colloton and Duane Benton. Benton authored the opinion.

Jamie Mahn filed the lawsuit against Jefferson County, Missouri; the 23rd Judicial Circuit; and individuals Wes Wagner, Howard Wagner, Jeanette McKee and Mike Reuter.

Mahn alleged in her suit that when Howard Wagner, then circuit clerk of the 23rd Judicial Circuit, decided not to run for re-election, he supported McKee and implied to Mahn that she needed to vote for McKee in the primary election or she would be out of a job.

About three weeks after the primary election, Howard Wagner allegedly informed her that he knew who she voted for and that she had made the wrong decision. He terminated her employment on Sept. 19, 2014.

Mahn alleged that Wes Wagner, who is Howard Wagner’s son, had access to voting records and information and unlawfully disclosed that information to Howard Wagner.

Mahn then filed a lawsuit against the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The defendants argued Mahn had poor performance at work, including various docketing errors and complaints from judges and others who were involved with the clerk’s office, according to the court's opinion.

The 8th Circuit noted that Howard Wagner and Reuter did not establish that Howard Wagner would have terminated Mahn from her position for her performance issues anyway, and that they needed to show that the action “would have occurred anyway” and not just that it was warranted, according to the decision.

Because of that, Howard Wagner and Reuter were not entitled to summary judgment. 

On the argument that Howard Wagner had qualified immunity, the appeals court said the federal court could consider that on remand because it did not previously rule on that issue.

Mahn also argued that Wes Wagner and Jefferson County should not have been granted summary judgment because she presented evidence that Wes Wagner had informed Howard Wagner how she had voted, which led to her termination.

The appeals court, however, believes her evidence was speculation and that the federal court did not err in granting summary judgment.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit Case number 16-1731

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