Elizabeth Young Mar. 21, 2013, 11:35am

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has overturned a Louisiana District Court’s ruling and dismissed claims against the City of Harahan and its mayor.

David Cobb, the former regulatory director for Harahan, sued his former employer and Mayor Provino Mosca alleging that he had been improperly fired after Mosca took office. The original suit alleged that because Cobb had been terminated without the approval of the city council, he was deprived of his employment without due process of law. The city and Mosca individually moved to dismiss the claims. Additionally, Mosca argued that he was entitled to qualified immunity.

The District Court declined to dismiss the charges against Mosca, saying that Mosca was not entitled to qualified immunity because Cobb had adequately stated a claim for violation of his procedural due process rights. Mosca filed an interlocutory appeal of this dismissal.

The city’s motion to dismiss was similarly denied by the district court. While such motions are not normally appealable, the city argued on appeal that the issues relevant to its motion are “inextricably intertwined” with the qualified immunity analysis raised in Mosca’s motion and that the appeals court should exercise  pendant jurisdiction.

In a per curiam opinion, Circuit Judges Jacques L. Wiener, Jennifer Walker Elrod and James E. Graves Jr. wrote that the lower court erred in refusing to consider Mosca’s qualified immunity defense.

The appeals court found that Cobb’s constitutional rights were not violated because he did not have a “property interest” in his continued employment. Because Cobb does not have a property interest, the claims must be dismissed, the panel held.

The panel reversed the order of the lower court, dismissed the claims against Mosca and the city, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In addition to the claims discussed in the opinion, Cobb brought a claim against the city under the Fair Labor Standards Act alleging that he was not paid for overtime work. The proceedings surrounding this claim are ongoing.

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