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Cool Judging: Ruling Quotes Game of Thrones and MacBeth

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Two justices out of Florida's Eleventh District, Federal Court of Appeal, have sandwiched a ruling between pop culture quotes from drastically different time periods. The opinion opens quoting Tyrion Lannister, a character from the HBO series Game of Thrones, and closes with one of the more widely known literary quotes from Shakespeare's MacBeth.

What's more is both quotes actually fit the case, Rodriguez v. City of Doral, et. al., rather well. The matter involves the alleged constructive discharge of a police officer for his political support of a candidate for office. On summary judgment, the lower district court ruled that the letter of voluntary resignation the plaintiff submitted to his employer negated the constructive termination claim. The circuit court had a different opinion, and delivered the reversal with style.

A Lannister Always Gets Quoted

"A wise man once said a true history of the world is a history of great conversations in elegant rooms." Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones, Season 6, "Oathbreaker."

While the quote may not seem directly on point at first blush, after getting into the facts of the case, it makes quite a bit of sense. The dismissal on summary judgment was overturned due to the lower court making the determination of fact that the plaintiff resigned voluntarily rather than due to duress or coercion, as required for a constructive termination claim.

The facts supporting that determination of the lower court, as one might expect, were not the conversations between management and employees, but rather the paper trail which tells a different story. The appellate court, relying on the evidence of the alleged conversations alleged by the plaintiff, found that the facts surrounding the voluntariness of the resignation, at least for purposes of summary judgment, could be submitted to a jury for determination.

A Concurrence of Poetic Endurance

The majority opinion, though it found in favor of the officer, ruled that an initial termination letter, that was withdrawn, was not an actual or constructive termination. The concurrence explains that their ruling should have gone further and reversed that ruling as well. And not to be out done by Judge Rosenbaum's quoting a Lannister; In the concurrence, Judge Jordan quotes Shakespeare to explain that a jury could find that the alleged retaliation "was just 'sound and fury, signifying nothing.' " William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of MacBeth, Act V, Scene 5.

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