Submitted: March 13, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
WOLLMAN, SHEPHERD, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
Singer, a former employee of Arkansas State Treasurer Dennis
Milligan, is appealing the district court's grant of partial
summary judgment to Milligan and his chief of staff, Jim
Harris, as well as the court's denial of his motion for a
new trial after an adverse jury verdict. Singer argues that
summary judgment was inappropriate, that the district court
committed several errors in instructing the jury, and that
the district court incorrectly refused to admit certain
evidence. We disagree and affirm.
January 2015, Milligan hired Singer as his assistant for
legislative affairs and communications. Originally, Singer
was in charge of overseeing social media, but the assistant
chief of staff, Grant Wallace, believed Singer was performing
the duty poorly and assumed that responsibility himself.
Singer was then reassigned to the treasurer's outreach
program. However, Gary Underwood, Milligan's deputy chief
information officer, soon relieved him of those duties as
April 6, 2015, Harris sent an email to Jason Brady, the
deputy chief of staff, discussing his concerns about Singer.
Harris stated in the email that he was worried about
Singer's mental health following the death of
Singer's wife and that he made his female coworkers feel
uncomfortable. Harris also said that he believed Singer was
not a competent employee, and he was "at a loss as to
what we need to do about [Singer]." Three weeks later,
on April 27, Milligan fired Singer.
same day he was fired, Singer asked a friend to make a
Freedom of Information Act
("FOIA") request for his personnel
file. Soon, other media outlets, including Little Rock,
Arkansas television station KATV, began making similar
requests for Singer's file and for correspondence
regarding Singer. Wallace, after consulting the Arkansas
Attorney General's Office, decided to release
Harris's April 6 email in response to the FOIA requests.
Singer did not have the opportunity to object to the release
of the email.
April 30, Harris met with Marine Glisovic, a reporter for
KATV. In an attempt to combat accusations that Singer made
against him, Harris told Glisovic to make a verbal FOIA
request for documents related to Singer. Upon her request,
Harris handed her a red folder containing documents involving
Singer, including the April 6 email.
2015, Singer sued Harris in state court, in his individual
capacity, for defamation. The following day, Milligan issued
a statement supporting Harris. Singer amended his complaint,
adding Milligan as a defendant, and the case was removed to
federal court. As amended, Singer made four claims against
Milligan and Harris in both their individual and official
capacities: (1) that Milligan and Harris deprived him of a
name clearing hearing to which he was entitled under the
Fourteenth Amendment and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act; (2)
that Milligan and Harris, in their official capacities,
violated his rights under the Rehabilitation Act and Titles I
and II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the
"ADA"); (3) that Milligan and
Harris, in their individual capacities, defamed him,
presented him in a false light, and invaded his privacy; and
(4) that Milligan and Harris violated the Arkansas
Whistle-Blower Act. Milligan and Harris moved for summary
judgment on these claims.
district court granted summary judgment in part and denied it
in part. The court found that Milligan and Harris were not
entitled to summary judgment on Singer's Title I of the
ADA claim because they failed to address these claims in
their motion. The court also found Harris was not entitled to
summary judgment on Singer's state law defamation,
invasion of privacy, and false light claims because there was
a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Harris acted
with malice. The district court granted summary judgment to
the defendants on all remaining claims, including
Singer's Rehabilitation Act Claim because, the district
court found, the Treasurer's Office does not receive
federal financial assistance and is thus immune from suit
under the Rehabilitation Act.
case proceeded to trial on the remaining claims. The jury
found in favor of Milligan and Harris on Singer's claim
under Title I of the ADA and in favor of Harris on each of
Singer's state law claims. Singer moved for a new trial,
which the district court denied. Singer now appeals.
makes several claims on appeal. First, he argues that the
district court erred in granting partial summary judgment to
Harris on the defamation, false light, and invasion of
privacy claims and in granting summary judgment to Milligan
and Harris on Singer's Rehabilitation Act claim. Second,
he asserts that the district court erred by giving an
improper jury instruction regarding publication and by
failing to give FOIA, joint agency, and "cat's
paw" theory jury instructions. Finally, he claims the
district court erred by excluding testimony regarding his