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United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
August 21, 2007, Decided; August 21, 2007, Filed
[*1193] MARCUS, Circuit Judge:
This unusual civil rights case presents the question, on interlocutory appeal, whether the defendants, who are state environmental regulators and local political actors, may be held liable for violations of the Equal Protection Clause for taking regulatory action against an industrial facility. Griffin Industries, which owns a chicken rendering plant in East Dublin, [*1194] Georgia, brought a section 1983 suit against various state and local defendants on the theory that the defendants violated its constitutional right to equal protection by "disparately treat[ing] and disparately regulat[ing] Griffin Industries in a way that its competitors . . . are not treated or regulated." Compl. P 20. After careful review, we reverse the district court's order denying the defendants' motions to dismiss and hold that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
I. [**2] BACKGROUND
] When we review the district court's denial of qualified immunity at the motion to dismiss stage, we accept, as we must, the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. Dacosta v. Nwachukwa, 304 F.3d 1045, 1047 (11th Cir. 2002). With this standard in mind, we provide the factual background of the case before proceeding to outline the specific allegations Griffin made against the individual defendants.
A. Factual Overview
Griffin Industries, Inc., a Kentucky corporation, owns a chicken rendering plant in East Dublin, Georgia, a town in east-central Georgia about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah. The East Dublin facility processes animal waste products such as chicken feathers, bones, blood, grease, and carcasses into commercial products used in animal feeds, cosmetics, fertilizers, and other products. Griffin has owned the facility since 1981.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the plant saw a substantial increase in the number of odor complaints coming from local residents. More people had moved into the area near the plant, and Griffin had entered into contracts with significant poultry producers in the state, [**3] increasing the plant's rendering volume. According to Griffin's complaint, local officials including East Dublin Mayor George Gornto and attorney Joshua Kight then began trying to limit or end rendering operations at the plant. Specifically, Griffin claimed that the defendants encouraged residents and businesses to file odor complaints against Griffin, required the plant to participate in an odor study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, published editorials attacking Griffin in the local newspaper, and utilized the East Dublin Police Department to intimidate and harass the company.
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496 F.3d 1189 *; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 19828 **; 37 ELR 20230; 20 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 998
GRIFFIN INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, versus TOMMY IRVIN, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and in his individual capacity, LEE MYERS, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and in his individual capacity, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Subsequent History: Rehearing, en banc, denied by Griffin Indus. v. Couch, 255 Fed. Appx. 504, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 30449 (11th Cir. Ga., 2007)
US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Griffin Indus. v. Irvin, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 3499 (U.S., Apr. 21, 2008)
Prior History: [**1] Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D. C. Docket No. 05-00684-CV-WSD-1.
Griffin Indus. v. Couch, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17285 (N.D. Ga., Mar. 23, 2006)
Disposition: REVERSED and REMANDED.
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