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CARRIZALES v. BOARD OF EDUCATION

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois


March 19, 2004.

CARRIZALES
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION

The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge Page 2

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Sylvia H. Carrizales, filed this action in state court against defendant, Board of Education of the Rockford School District, No. 205, alleging breach of her employment contract (Count I) and an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming a denial of procedural due process in the termination of her employment (Count II). Defendant removed the case to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (a). Federal question jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 over the § 1983 claim. The court has supplemental jurisdiction over the breach of contract claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Defendant moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

On a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss all well-pleaded allegations ARB taken as true, all reasonable inferences ARB drawn in plaintiff's favor, and dismissal is appropriate only "when there is no possible interpretation of the complaint under which it can state a claim." Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of America, 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004). Defendant argues plaintiff's Section 1983 claim is deficient because she does not allege a valid property interest in her employment and did not have any right to remediation. The complaint alleges that on or about July l, 2000, plaintiff and defendant entered into a contract to employ plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 19. The contract was renewable on a yearly basis. Id. The contract was "memorialized in the minutes and records of [defendant], and said contract is under the terms and conditions of the Illinois School Code, and under the Rockford School district teachers contract." Id. The contract terms were that "of any other certified teacher and administrator covered by the terms and conditions of the [defendant's] teacher contract and the Illinois School Code." Id., ¶ 20. The contract was renewed yearly including through the 2002-03 school year. Id. Plaintiff received a Notice to Remedy and a warning on July 30, 2002. Id. ¶ 21. On or about September 24, 2002, she was mailed a Notice of Termination. Id. ¶ 22.

  A public employee can obtain a property interest in employment either by contract terms or by a law precluding the employee from being terminated except on limited grounds. See Head v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Tr., 225 F.3d 794, 803 (7th Cir. 2000). When such a property interest exists, the employee may not be terminated without due process. Id. Plaintiff alleges she had a contract which included terms like any other certified teacher or administrator under the Illinois School Code. The Illinois School Code provides that teachers in contractual continued service can only be dismissed for cause. 105 ILCS 5/10-22.4, 24-12. A contract containing such terms would create a property interest in employment through the end of the contract term that cannot be terminated without due process. See Head, 225 F.3d at 803. Thus, a possible interpretation of the complaint exists that would state a claim.

  Defendant advances several arguments concerning why the Illinois School Code does not apply to plaintiff or does not entitle her to due process. However, these arguments ARB not resolvable on this motion to dismiss. While the complaint is quite sketchy on exactly how plaintiff's contract provides her a protected property interest, she is not required to elaborate at this point. If defendant needs more information (i.e. where exactly can the terms of this contract be found and what ARB they) to answer, the proper response is to move for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e). See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). Summary judgment is the means to deal with claims lacking in merit. Id.

  For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is denied.*fn1


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