Bailey v. Wheeler
Derrick Bailey, an officer of the Douglasville Police Department, filed a written complaint with his chief, reporting that other Douglasville officers and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies had been racially profiling minority citizens and committing other constitutional violations. The following month, Bailey was terminated and Major Tommy Wheeler issued a “Be On the Lookout” (BOLO) county-wide warning was issued, referring to Bailey as a “loose cannon” who presented a “danger to any law-enforcement office in Douglas County.” The BOLO alert directed officers to “act accordingly.” Bailey filed suit against Wheeler, asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violation of his First Amendment rights (in relation to his initial written complaint) and a claim under Georgia law for defamation (in relation to the BOLO alert).
Wheeler filed a motion to dismiss both of Bailey’s claims on the grounds that Wheeler was entitled to qualified immunity on the §1983 claim and official immunity on the defamation claim. The district court denied Wheeler’s motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. In regards to denying the qualified immunity defense, the United States Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged a violation of his First Amendment rights in reference to the BOLO alert and the plaintiff’s constitutional right to be free from retaliation that imperiled his life was established at the time the defendant issued the BOLO. In regards to denying the official immunity defense, the United States Court of Appeals held that, with respect to the defamation claim, the defendant did not qualify for official immunity.