Civil Case Law - Fifth Circuit

5th Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas)

Cases Upholding Agency Anti-Fraternization Policies

Mississippi Dept. of Corrections v. Maxwell , 913 So.2d 1013 (Miss. App., May 10, 2005): A female corrections counselor was working with a male inmate under her care. The inmate sent her a letter indicating he was depressed due to the holiday season. The counselor replied with a note, signed “your mom.” The counselor claimed she was using a therapy known as “client-therapy relationships.” The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) claimed this was against the correctional policy prohibiting relationships between employees and inmates. The agency recommended termination, however, the Employee Appeals Board reinstated the counselor, finding that termination was too harsh a remedy. The MDOC appealed her reinstatement. The court reversed the counselor’s reinstatement, finding MDOC did not act in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

Tillman v. City of West Point , 953 F.Supp. 145 (N.D. Miss. 1996): A male police officer maintained a friendship with a male inmate in the Mississippi State penitentiary. The officer’s inmate friend was under investigation as a potential murder suspect. The Mississippi Department of Corrections became aware of officer’s friendship, and asked the officer to submit to a polygraph examination. The examination revealed that the officer had not been truthful regarding the extent of his friendship. The department terminated the officer, and the officer filed suit alleging violations of his First Amendment right to free association. The court found that because the officer and the suspect were merely friends, the relationship was not enough to invoke a constitutionally protected associational right under the First Amendment.