DANIEL R. LAWSON
Submitted On Briefs: February 20, 2019
Judgment affirmed. Daniel Lawson, appellant pro se
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Kelly L. Morrell, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.
Daniel R. Lawson appeals from a judgment of the Superior
Court (Kennebec County, Murphy, J.) dismissing his
defamation action against his former supervisor, Debby
Willis, for failure to state a claim pursuant to M.R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). Lawson contends that the court erred in its
determination that Willis was immune from liability pursuant
to the Maine Tort Claims Act, 14 M.R.S. § 8111(1)(C)
(2018). We affirm the judgment.
Lawson alleges the following facts in his complaint, which we
view as admitted for the purposes of this appeal. Ramsey
v. Baxter Title Co., 2012 ME 113, ¶ 2, 54 A.3d 710.
In September 2016, Lawson began working as an assistant
attorney general in the Child Support Enforcement Division of
the Maine Attorney General's Office. Debby Willis was the
chief of the Child Support Enforcement Division and
Lawson's direct supervisor. For the first six months of
his employment, Lawson received generally positive feedback
from Willis, who indicated in a February 2017 meeting with
him that she was satisfied with his work performance based on
her review of his written work and from speaking with people
who had observed him in court.
Shortly after that meeting, Lawson responded to a
colleague's email thread regarding the interpretation of
a statute with an opinion that was contrary to the opinion
that Willis had already expressed. Willis told Lawson that
this bothered her and reprimanded him for sending the email.
Lawson alleges that following this reprimand Willis began
providing extremely negative feedback about his job
performance even though it had not worsened. Lawson also
alleges that Willis wrote a memo that falsely claimed that he
had been ordered by a court to serve a party and had refused
to do so.
On June 5, 2017, Willis informed Lawson that the Attorney
General was terminating his employment based on her
recommendation. Willis provided Lawson with a memo regarding
her assessment of his job performance in which Lawson alleges
that she stated, without basis, that he had been rude and
arrogant during his court appearances. As a result of
Willis's statements and his resulting termination, Lawson
was forced to take a lower paying job and has suffered damage
to his previously unblemished professional reputation.
Lawson commenced this action in November 2017. In his
complaint, he asserted claims against Willis for libel per se
and slander per se. Willis filed a motion to dismiss in which
she argued, pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), that
Lawson's complaint failed to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted because his claims against her were
barred by the discretionary function immunity provision of
the Maine Tort Claims Act, 14 M.R.S. § 81111(1)(C).
After a hearing, the court determined that Lawson's
claims were barred by discretionary function immunity and
granted Willis's motion to dismiss. Lawson timely
appealed. See M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1).