Lawsuit filed by former Lexington police sergeant dismissed

Jervis Middleton.jpg
Posted at 2:51 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 16:14:06-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A lawsuit filed by a former Lexington police sergeant arguing that his firing was the result of racial discrimination has been dismissed.

Former Lexington police sergeant Jervis Middleton was fired after he was accused of sharing information about fellow police officers and police movements with a friend who was a leader of peaceful racial justice protests in Lexington in 2020.

In the lawsuit, Middleton detailed allegations of ongoing racial discrimination within the Lexington Police Department and argued that his First Amendment rights had been violated.

The lawsuit was filed in April of 2021 in Fayette County Circuit Court, but the case was moved to federal court. It was filed against the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers.

On Monday, federal Chief Judge Danny C. Reeves ordered that Middleton’s claims against both defendants be dismissed.

In the order, Reeves wrote that some of the allegations Middleton made of a hostile work environment had taken place before an October 2019 settlement between Middleton and the city that released the city from any claims made up to that point.

Reeves found that Middleton did not develop his argument of allegations that the department retaliated against him after that settlement.

On the allegation of racial discrimination, Middleton was unable to point to specific employment practices that harmed one group more than another within the department, Reeves wrote.

Reeves also dismissed Middleton’s claim that his First Amendment rights had been violated.

“Middleton has not identified any authority indicating that sharing a confidential police communication indicating the future location of officers is a protected right, and certainly not one that is clearly established,” Reeves wrote.

Attorneys for Middleton confirmed on Wednesday that they intend to appeal the dismissal of the lawsuit.

"We believe it is clear from the record that Jervis Middleton was fired in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, and that the level of discipline imposed upon him was grossly disproportionate to that which the Lexington Police Department has historically imposed to white officers," Middleton's attorneys Sam Aguiar and Jon Hollon said in a statement.

Middleton had spoken up about other officers' misconduct during his time with the department and marched in the protests for racial equality and police accountability in 2020, his attorneys said.

Middleton was the only officer to be fired by the department in over a decade, according to his attorneys. He was fired over disparaging communications regarding other officers and dissemination of information.

"Lexington’s own policies recommend a written reprimand for the disparaging communications and a one-month suspension for dissemination of information," Middleton's attorneys said. "LPD’s own officers testified that, in reality, disparaging communications occur all the time and are handled at the bureau level without formal discipline."

Once appealed, Middleton's lawsuit will go to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.