United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 14, 2004.
PERCY COLEMAN and JIMMY BOYD, Plaintiffs,
VILLAGE OF FORD HEIGHTS, a municipality, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, Percy Coleman and Jimmy Boyd, filed suit against
Defendant, the Village of Ford Heights. Plaintiffs allege that
Defendant wrongfully terminated Plaintiffs' employment, in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Plaintiffs also allege that
Defendant retaliated against Plaintiffs. Presently before the
Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. For the following
reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied.
In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court reviews all facts
alleged in the complaint and any reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See
Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326
(7th Cir. 2000). A district court may also take judicial notice
of matters of public record without converting the pending motion
into a request for summary judgment. See Doherty v. City of
Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 324 n. 4 (7th Cir. 1996). A plaintiff is
not required to plead the facts or elements of a claim, with the
exceptions found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9. See
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002); Walker v.
Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1007 (7th Cir. 2002). Dismissal is warranted only if "it appears beyond a 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
(1957). The "suit should not be dismissed if it is possible to
hypothesize facts, consistent with the complaint, that would make
out a claim." Graehling v. Village of Lombard, Ill.,
58 F.3d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 1995).
The facts, for the purpose of this motion, are taken as true
from Plaintiffs' Complaint. Plaintiffs were employed as Deputy
Chiefs in Defendant's police department. On several occasions,
Plaintiffs were involved with arresting family members of the
Village of Ford Heights' Board of Trustees and the Trustees
themselves. Thereafter, Plaintiffs were terminated from their
employment with Defendant without receiving a hearing.
Plaintiffs bring three counts against Defendant: (1) a claim
alleging Defendant discharged Plaintiffs in retaliation for
engaging in constitutionally protected activities, (2) a
violation of procedural due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and
(3) a violation of substantive due process under
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
As to Plaintiffs' retaliation claim, Defendant argues that
Plaintiffs have failed to properly allege the elements of this
claim, namely, the existence of a constitutionally protected
activity. Abrams v. Walker, 307 F.3d 650, 654 (7th Cir. 2002).
At this stage, though, Plaintiffs do not need to allege the facts
that support the elements of their retaliation claim but only a
statement which provides fair notice of the claim and the grounds
upon which it is based. This, the Plaintiffs have done. Similarly, with respect to Plaintiffs' procedural due process
claim, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs have failed to properly
allege facts to state a claim. According to Defendant, Plaintiffs
have not properly alleged facts demonstrating that they have a
protectable property or liberty interest. However, Plaintiffs
need not allege the facts of the claim in their Complaint, as
explained above. Here, again, Plaintiffs' Complaint provides
notice of the grounds for the claim in Count II.
As to Plaintiffs' substantive due process claim, Plaintiffs'
Complaint alleges that Defendant's decision to terminate
Plaintiffs without a hearing was arbitrary and capricious. To
recover on a substantive due process claim, Plaintiffs must
demonstrate an underlying life, liberty, or property interest
that is protectable. Zorzi v. County of Putnam, 30 F.3d 885,
895 (7th Cir. 1994) (Zorzi). Defendant is correct in stating
that "[o]ccupational liberty . . . is not protected by
substantive due process." Zorzi, 30 F.3d at 895 (citing
Illinois Psychological Ass'n v. Falk, 818 F.2d 1337, 1343-44
(7th Cir. 1987). However, Plaintiffs can also bring a substantive
due process claim based upon the denial of a protectable property
interest. See Draghi v. County of Cook, 184 F.3d 689, 694 (7th
Cir. 1999). As discussed above, whether Plaintiffs have a
protectable property interest is a factual matter not proper to
resolve on a motion to dismiss.
Defendant, a municipality, also seeks to dismiss these counts
because Plaintiffs have not properly brought a claim against a
municipality. Specifically, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs
have failed to allege what involvement the Trustees had in the
employment decision. To bring a § 1983 claim against a
municipality, a plaintiff must allege that the municipality's
custom or policy caused the injury. See, e.g., Woodward v. Corr. Med.
Servs. of Illinois, Inc., 368 F.3d 917, 928 (7th Cir. 2004)
(citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694
(1978)). Here, Plaintiffs have alleged Defendant had such a
custom or policy.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is
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