Key Decisions

July 2013 – Government Officials Acting in an Official Capacity Are Immune from Suit

(filed under: Key Decisions | July 22, 2013)

Government Officials Acting in an Official Capacity Are Immune from Suit

McAllister v. Los Angeles Unified School District
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed  June 3, 2013, published  June 3, 2013

Patricia McAllister was a school teacher who worked as a substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. McAllister attended a rally as part of the Occupy Los Angeles movement. She did so on her own time. While there, she was interviewed by the media.  She stated: “I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which are not run by the federal government, they need to be run out of this country.”

Public outcry over this racist remark resulted in the school district electing not to continue to use McAllister’s services.

McAllister sued the school district and it’s superintendent for civil rights violations based on her having been terminated for exercising her right to speak.  The trial court sustained demurrers without leave to amend.

In the ensuing appeal, the Court of Appeal held that while McAllister may have had a viable cause of action against the superintendent in his individual capacity, her complaint alleged he acted in his official capacity and could not be read to include acts in his individual capacity.

Although the trial court was willing to let McAllister make an offer of proof of how she might amend, the record she provided on appeal did not reflect what had happened with that offer.  As a result, the court assumed McAllister’s offer was insufficient to support a cause of action.