Haddle v. Garrison
525 U.S. 121 (1998)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1998

Syllabus

HADDLE v. GARRISON ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT

No. 97-1472. Argued November 10, 1998-Decided December 14, 1998 Petitioner, an at-will employee, filed this action for damages against respondents alleging, inter alia, that they conspired to have him fired in retaliation for obeying a federal grand jury subpoena and to deter him from testifying at their upcoming criminal trial for Medicare fraud, and that their acts had "injured [him] in his person or property" in violation of 42 U. S. C. § 1985(2). In dismissing the suit for failure to state a claim, the District Court relied on Circuit precedent holding that an at-will employee discharged pursuant to a conspiracy proscribed by § 1985(2) has suffered no actual injury because he has no constitutionally protected interest in continued employment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Held: The sort of the harm alleged by petitioner-essentially third-party interference with at-will employment relationships-states a claim for damages under § 1985(2). In relevant part, the statute proscribes conspiracies to "deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any ... witness in any [federal] court ... from attending such court, or from testifying to any matter pending therein, ... or to injure [him] in his person or property on account of his having so attended or testified," § 1985(2), and provides that if conspirators "do ... any act in furtherance of ... such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, ... the party so injured ... may" recover damages, § 1985(3). The Eleventh Circuit erred in concluding that petitioner must suffer an injury to a "constitutionally protected property interest" to state a claim. Nothing in the language or purpose of the proscriptions in the first clause of § 1985(2), nor in its attendant remedial provisions, establishes such a requirement. The gist of the wrong at which § 1985(2) is directed is not deprivation of property, but intimidation or retaliation against witnesses in federal-court proceedings. The terms "injured in his person or property" define the harm that the victim may suffer as a result of the conspiracy to intimidate or retaliate. Thus, the fact that employment at will is not "property" for purposes of the Due Process Clause, see Bishop v. Wood, 426 U. S. 341, 345-347, does not mean that loss of at-will employment may not "injur[e] [petitioner] in his person or property" for § 1985(2)'s purposes. Such harm has long been, and remains, a compensable injury under tort law, and there is no reason to


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ignore this tradition here. To the extent that the terms "injured in his person or property" refer to such tort principles, there is ample support for the Court's holding. pp. 124-127.

132 F.3d 46, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Charles C. Stebbins III argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Matthew D. Roberts argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Underwood, David K. Flynn, and Timothy J. Moran.

Phillip A. Bradley argued the cause for respondents.

With him on the briefs for respondents Garrison et al. were Barry J. Armstrong and David E. Hudson. J. Patrick Claiborne and Terrance P. Leiden filed a brief for respondent Molloy. *

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Michael A. Haddle, an at-will employee, alleges that respondents conspired to have him fired from his job in retaliation for obeying a federal grand jury subpoena and to deter him from testifying at a federal criminal trial. We hold that such interference with at-will employment may give rise to a claim for damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1980, 42 U. S. C. § 1985(2).

According to petitioner's complaint, a federal grand jury indictment in March 1995 charged petitioner's employer,

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law by George W Jones, Jr., Jacqueline Gerson Cooper, Daniel F. Kolb, Norman Redlich, Barbara R. Arnwine, Thomas J. Henderson, Richard T. Seymour, and Teresa A. Ferrante; for the National Employment Lawyers Association et al. by Mark Allen Kleiman and Paula A. Brantner; and for the National Whistleblower Center by Stephen M. Kohn.


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Full Text of Opinion

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