Sheriff’s Civil Lawsuit Trial Moved Back To Local Court

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. (County photo/file)
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WACO (April 10, 2014) A federal civil lawsuit filed against McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara that was moved to Austin on Feb. 27, 2013 after the local federal judge recused himself from the case has now been moved back to the Waco courtroom for trial – maybe.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Tuesday partially granted and partially denied a motion filed by McNamara’s attorneys that asked that the trial be moved back to Waco and that Yeakel consider issuing a summary judgment for the defendant in the matter.

McNamara is being sued by six former McLennan County Sheriff’s deputies in which the deputies say their First Amendments rights were violated when they were fired because, they say, they only were fired because they supported McNamara's opponent in the 2012 GOP Primary.

The complaint, obtained at the time of filing by News 10, lists Jimmie Channon, W. Derrick Johnson, William I. McKamey, Anthony W. McRae, J.C. Riggs and Norman Wade as plaintiffs and Sheriff Parnell McNamara and McLennan County as defendants.

Yeakel agreed with the basis of the venue motion, saying it was “Granted to the following extent: jury selection shall begin Thursday, August 14, 2014, at 9 a.m. in the United States Courthouse …

“If the court is able to select a jury at that time, jury trial shall commence in Waco on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 9 a.m.”, Yeakel’s order said.

But it continued: “If the court is unsuccessful in selecting a jury … jury selection and trial shall commence on Monday, August 18, 2014, at 9 a.m. at the United States Courthouse … in Austin.”

The order also says, however, that the final pre-trial conference in the case remains set at the courthouse in Austin on July 8.

Then Yeakel denied the request for a summary judgment.

Lawyers on both sides of the case refused to comment, citing pending litigation in the matter.

If the lawsuit is heard in Waco, another federal district judge will have to be assigned to hear it because Smith, citing a personal conflict, recused himself on Jan. 15, 2013.

Smith was appointed to the federal bench in 1984 and for many of the years he served, McNamara was a U.S. Deputy Marshal who worked both in the same building and in the same court.

Court records show the case first was transferred to U.S. District Judge James Nowlin’s court, but shortly thereafter he, too, said he could not hear the case because of personal conflict.

After that the case was sent to Yeakel.

Dallas attorney Don Tittle filed the suit claiming the plaintiffs were denied their right to free speech and claims they were terminated from employment at the sheriff's office solely for political reasons.

The lawsuit claim states all the plaintiffs openly campaigned for Randy Plemons, who McNamara defeated in the GOP Primary for the right to run for the job in the general election, which McNamara also won.

The lawsuit claim points out that combined the plaintiffs had more than 114 years experience in law enforcement and all had been given excellent job reviews.

"The unprecedented firings were obvious political retaliation," the claim states.

Further, the claim states that McNamara's actions "caused past and future economic damage to each plaintiff in the form of lost wages and benefits. Also each plaintiff has sustained damage to his reputation, ability to earn a living and standing in the community, and will continue to be so damaged in the future."