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PHELAN v. CITY OF CHICAGO

December 29, 2000

JAMES PHELAN, PLAINTIFF
V.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ian H. Levin, United States Magistrate Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff James Phelan ("Plaintiff") has brought a four-count Amended Complaint alleging that his employment with the City of Chicago ("City") was unlawfully terminated in October of 1997. The City moves the court to dismiss Counts I, II, and III of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the City's motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In 1992, Plaintiff was hired by the City as a police officer. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.) After Plaintiff took a leave of absence from the City to serve as an Illinois State Representative, he graduated from the Chicago Police Academy in September of 1993. (Id.) In October of 1993, the Chicago Police Department granted Plaintiff a leave of absence which was extended through 1996. (Id.)

In November of 1995, while Plaintiff was on leave from the Chicago Police Department, he was hired by the City's Department of Streets and Sanitation to work as a Ward Superintendent for the 23rd Ward. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff worked full-time as Ward Superintendent until July of 1997 at which time he took leave because of personal health problems. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff exhausted all of his sick days and was still unable to return to work. (Id.) In September of 1997, he applied for and was granted leave under the FMLA. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.)

In September of 1997, Plaintiff was indicted for mail fraud. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) The indictment did not involve any allegations of misconduct related to Plaintiff's employment with the City. (Id.) Shortly after Plaintiff's indictment was publicly announced, City personnel requested that Plaintiff resign from his position as Ward Superintendent. (Id. ¶ 12.) When Plaintiff refused to resign, the City informed him that he was being terminated from his position effective October 23, 1997. (Id. ¶ 13.) On the same day, Plaintiff was reinstated to his Ward Superintendent position from FMLA leave and his discharge from the Department of Streets and Sanitation was processed. (Id. ¶ 14.)

On October 27, 1997, Plaintiff requested that the City reinstate him to his position as. probationary police officer. (Id. ¶ 15.) The next day, the City delivered a letter to Plaintiff stating that as of October 24, 1997 his "resignation has been processed." (Id.) Plaintiff had at no time resigned from the Chicago Police Department. (Id.)

Plaintiff, subsequently, filed the subject Amended Complaint. As is pertinent here, in Count I, Plaintiff alleges Fourteenth Amendment due process and § 1983 claims stating that he was terminated from his position as Ward Superintendent, as to which he alleges a protected property interest, because he was not afforded notice of the termination and he was not given a hearing prior to his discharge. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated while on a FMLA leave, in violation of the FMLA. (Id. ¶ 19.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges an equal protection and § 1983 claim asserting that after his termination as Ward Superintendent, he was not permitted to seek reinstatement as a police officer due to intentional and arbitrary discrimination. (Id. ¶ 20.)

MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, and not to decide its merits. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Courts read complaints liberally and a motion to dismiss will be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the district court must treat all well-pleaded allegations as being true and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999), cert denied, 120 S.Ct. 2691 (2000). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheurer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct.1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974).

At the same time, a plaintiff must include in the complaint allegations concerning all material elements necessary for recovery under the relevant legal theory. Chawla v. Klapper, 743 F. Supp. 1284, 1285 (N.D. Ill. 1990). This requirement, however, must be considered in light of the federal system of notice pleading, which merely requires that a plaintiff set out in the complaint a short and plain statement of the claim that provides the defendant with fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 323-26 (7th Cir. 2000); Scott v. City of Chicago, 195 F.3d 950, 951 (7th Cir. 1999). For fair notice to be given, "[a] complaint must at least 'include the operative facts upon which a plaintiff bases his claim.'" Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Rogers v. Lincoln Towing Service, Inc., 771 F.2d 194, 198 (7th Cir. 1985)). The issue the court reviews is whether "sufficient facts [have been] pleaded to allow the court and the defendants to understand the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint." Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 326 (7th Cir. 1996); Kyle v. Morton High Sch., 144 F.3d 448, 455 (7th Cir. 1998).

ANALYSIS

I. DUE PROCESS CLAIM (COUNT I).

A. PLAINTIFF FAILS TO STATE A DUE PROCESS CLAIM IN VIOLATION OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT BECAUSE HE DOES NOT ALLEGE ...

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