In this week’s Alabama Law Weekly Update, we take a look at two decisions out of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The first decision reviews a borrower’s challenge to an assignment of mortgage and the second discusses an employee’s claim of gender discrimination and retaliation against her employer.

Ambarus v. Bank of America, N.A., 2014 WL 1282283 (11th Cir. April 1, 2014) (holding borrower lacked standing to challenge validity of assignment of mortgage)

The 11th Circuit has upheld a Court of Appeals’ decision holding that a borrower lacked standing to challenge the validity of an assignment of mortgage. In this particular case, the borrower argued, among other things, that MERS, who was named on the security deed as nominee of the lender and as a grantee under the security instrument, did not have authority to assign the security instrument. The appellate court upheld the trials court’s decision that the borrower did not have standing to challenge the validity of the assignment because the assignment was a contract between MERS and the assignee, Bank of America. The court noted that even if the assignment had been flawed, the proper party to have brought the claim against MERS would have been the assignee.

 

Owens v. Jackson County Board of Education, 2014 WL 1272868 (11th Cir. March 31, 2014) (granting summary judgment in part and denying in part on Title VII claims)

The plaintiff in this case is a female teacher who had worked in the Jackson County School District (the “District”) since 1988. From May 2010 to May 2012, she unsuccessfully applied for sixteen different administrative positions in the District.  Fourteen of those sixteen positions were filled by men. During that time, Kenneth Harding, the superintendent for the District who had primary decision making responsibilities with respect to the administrative positions, voiced his belief that women should not be in administrative positions.

The plaintiff commenced this action against the school district under Title VII alleging gender discrimination and retaliation and against the school board and superintendent under the Equal Protection clause alleging retaliation and discrimination.  The defendants filed a joint motion for summary judgment arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support any of the plaintiff’s claims.  In addition, Harding asserted an affirmative defense of qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit noted that a claim of gender-based retaliation does not implicate the equal protection clause. As such, the Court held that Harding was entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s retaliation claim. Harding also contended that he should have been granted summary judgment on the plaintiff’s discrimination claim. However, the record reflected that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether Harding made the hiring decisions based on committee recommendations and whether Harding had discriminatory intent in hiring for the administrative positions. Accordingly, the 11th Circuit upheld the trial court’s decision to deny summary judgment on the plaintiff’s discrimination claim against the superintendent.