- Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2015

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Two former Shelby police officers who won an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court returned to the trial court only to lose on other grounds.

A federal judge in Oxford has ruled against a wrongful firing lawsuit brought by Tracey L. Johnson and David James Jr. against the Bolivar County town.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills ruled June 30 that Johnson and James were at-will employees and had no right to sue over their firings. The pair claimed Shelby fired them in 2009 because they cracked down on criminal activity at a nightclub owned by a city alderman, Harold Billings, also a defendant in the lawsuit.

Johnson and James claimed that the employee manual in effect while they were officers said they could only be fired for cause. Mills ruled otherwise, even though the city council discarded one employee manual and adopted another in the same meeting before it fired Johnson and James.

“The city is correct in asserting that plaintiffs were at-will employees and did not have a property interest in continued employment,” Mills wrote. He granted Shelby’s motion for summary judgment, ending the case.

The officers sued under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code, which is intended to allow individuals to sue when they believe their constitutional rights have been infringed. The law has been used to sue for damages over a multitude of wrongs committed by government officials.

Mills and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier ruled the lawsuit should be dismissed because the officers failed to prove that a federal right was violated and that the alleged violation was a proximate or legal cause of the damages they allegedly suffered.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed in 2014, finding that the officers offered facts sufficient to show that their claim had plausibility.

The justices said the officers informed the city of factual basis for their complaint and didn’t need to do anything else to succeed against a motion for dismissal.

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