United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 8, 2004.
JULIE ANNE MOSKAL, Plaintiff
WHEATON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT 200; DR. GARY CATALANI; DR. LORI BELHA; RALPH HEATHERINGTON; and CHRIS NESS, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendants
Wheaton Community Unit School District 200, Gary Catalani, Lori Belha,
Ralph Heatherington, and Chris Ness (collectively referred to as
"Defendants") to dismiss the amended complaint of Plaintiff Julie Anne
Moskal. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.
The full background of the case was contained in our previous opinion
and order dismissing an earlier version of the instant complaint.
Moskal v. Wheaton Comm. Unit Sch. Dist. 200, 2003 WL 22889381 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5,
2003). To avoid repetition, we offer only a brief factual summary of the
case here, Moskal was a substitute teacher in the Wheaton School
District. In February 2003, she was removed from the school's substitute
teacher list as a result of a report of an incident in Defendant Ness's
Moskal filed suit against the school district and its personnel who
were involved with the report or her subsequent removal from the
substitute list, claiming violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. During
briefing, it became apparent that Moskal's claim was limited to
allegations of deprivation of a liberty interest in her professional
reputation. Finding that her complaint did not state a claim for
deprivation of a liberty interest, we dismissed the complaint without
prejudice. Moskal has now filed an amended complaint, which Defendants
move to dismiss once again on Rule 12(b)(6) grounds.
Rule 12(b)(6) evaluates the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's
complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th
Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all
well-pleaded allegations as true and will not dismiss a case for failure
to state a claim unless the plaintiff cannot prove any facts sufficient
to support his claim. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957). All inferences shall be drawn in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Jackson v. E.J. Branch Corp., 176 F.3d 971, 978 (7th Cir. 1999). To survive a motion to dismiss,
a plaintiff must only provide a "short and plain statement" under
Rule 8(a)(2); the particulars of her claim are not required. Midwest Gas
Servs. v. Ind. Gas Co., 317 F.3d 703, 710 (7th Cir. 2002). However,
the complaint must set out sufficient facts to outline the requisite
elements of the claims within it. Panaras v. Liquid Carbonic Indus.
Corp., 74 F.3'd 786, 792 (7th Cir. 1996). With these principles in
mind, we address the motion before us.
As we explained in our prior opinion, to withstand a motion to dismiss,
Moskal's complaint must allege that Defendants publicly disclosed
stigmatizing statements about her to such an extent that she is
effectively blacklisted within her profession. Trejo v. Shoben,
319 F.3d 878.889 (7th Cir. 2003): Townsend v. Riley,
256 F.3d 661.669 (7th Cir. 2001): Olivieri v. Rodriguez, 122 F.3d 406,
407-09 (7th Cir. 1997). We concluded that her previous complaint did not
allege any public disclosure, let alone disclosure that was so widespread
as to foreclose her from ever being able to work as a substitute teacher.
Moskal, 2003 WL 22889381 at *3.
Defendants contend that the amended complaint does not remedy the
deficiencies we identified in its predecessor. Specifically, they advert
the absence of allegations that the incident report was distributed to
anyone outside the relevant chain of command as well as the conspicuous
lack of contention that Moskal has been denied any employment opportunity outside of the Wheaton School District.
See Johnson v. Martin, 943 F.2d 15, 17 (7th Cir. 1991);
Hannon v. Turnage, 892 F.2d 653, 660 (7th Cir. 1990).
Our own review of the amended complaint bears out Defendants' position,
and Moskal admits in her response that the complaint does not allege
public disclosure or the loss of tangible employment opportunities., The
only noticeable differences within the new pleading are a greater
emphasis on the permanency of the School District's decision not to
rehire Moskal and references to Moskal having a liberty interest in her
occupation. The first is merely another way of stating what we have
already found insufficient; it does nothing to rectify the shortcomings
of the earlier complaint. The second is an inaccurate statement of law;
in circumstances such as these, an employee does not have a liberty
interest in her or his occupation. See, e.g., Bishop y. Wood,
426 U.S. 341, 348-49, 96 S.Ct. 2074, 2079 (1976). As Defendants aptly
describe in their reply, this plaintiff's inability to work in a single
school district does not amount to a categorical exclusion from her
chosen field. Even under the plaintiff-friendly standard of a 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, Moskal's allegations do not demonstrate that she had a
cognizable liberty or property interest in her employment at the School
District. Accordingly, she cannot show even an arguable right to the due
process hearing to which she claims entitlement. Our previous decision allowed Moskal the opportunity to amend provided
she could do so within the bounds of Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 11. Rule 11(b)(2)
states that an attorney who presents a pleading to a federal court
certifies, inter alia, that the claims and legal contentions
within it are either warranted by existing law or are supported by a
nonfrivolous argument to extend, modify, or reverse existing law.
Rule 11(b)(3) specifies that the attorney also certifies that the allegations
and factual contentions within the pleading have evidentiary support or
are likely to have such support after further investigation. Although
Defendants press for dismissal of the amended complaint with prejudice,
insisting that Moskal cannot in good faith file a cognizable claim, we
will dismiss the complaint again without prejudice. However, any further
amendments that merely restate the same facts in a different way, or that
contain factual allegations that run afoul of Rule 11(b)(3) will subject
Moskal and/or counsel to a dismissal of her claims with prejudice as well
as exposure to other sanctions as described in Rule 11(c). CONCLUSION
Based on the foregoing analysis, the motion to dismiss the amended
complaint is granted without prejudice. Defendants' motion to strike the
claim for punitive damages is denied as moot.
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