United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
January 6, 2005.
Stacie Foster, Plaintiff,
Anthony Deluca and City of Chicago Heights, a municipal Corporation, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to
dismiss and motion to strike. For the reasons stated below, we
grant the motion to dismiss and deny the motion to strike as
Plaintiff Stacie Foster ("Foster") began working for Defendant
City of Chicago Heights ("City") in 1997 and in 2000 she became
the City's Health Insurance Coordinator. Foster claims that after
City Mayor Angelo Ciambrone decided not to run for re-election,
Foster worked in the mayoral campaign of Democrat Ms. Paulnita
Rees ("Rees"). Foster claims that the Republican candidate, Defendant Anthony Deluca ("Deluca"), was elected mayor instead of
Rees. According to Foster, a month after the election, on May 16,
2003, DeLuca's Chief of Staff, Dan Proft ("Proft") told her that
her employment was being terminated because her position was
being eliminated due to a new federal law relating to health
information of employees. Foster claims that a week after her
termination her position was offered to another person. Foster
contends that Defendants discriminated against her because she
supported the Democrats. She brought the instant action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983").
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must draw all
reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the
allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and
allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of
Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins
v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The
allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure
to state a claim "unless 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 (1957). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based.
Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 445-55 (7th Cir.
1998); Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992).
Under current notice pleading standard in federal courts a
plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each
element of a "cause of action. . . .'" See Sanjuan v. American
Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc, 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th
Cir. 1994) (stating that a "[a]t this stage the plaintiff
receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses
are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts
against legal elements comes later."). The plaintiff need not
allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead
conclusions. Higgs v. Carter, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir.
2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. However, any conclusions pled
must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the
claim," Id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading
requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to
narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of [his] claim."
Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67.
I. Claim Against DeLuca
DeLuca moves to dismiss the claim brought against him. The
Seventh Circuit has made it clear that "[t]he doctrine of
respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions. . . ." Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724,
740 (7th Cir. 2001). Thus, an individual cannot be held
liable under Section 1983 in his individual capacity unless he
"participated directly in the constitutional violation."
Hildebrandt v. Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources,
347 F.3d 1014, 1039 (7th Cir. 2003) (stating that "Section 1983
creates a cause of action based on personal liability and
predicated upon fault; thus, liability does not attach unless the
individual defendant caused or participated in a constitutional
deprivation."). For a supervisor to be held liable under Section
1983 for acting in his supervisory role, a plaintiff must show
that the supervisor directed the constitutional deprivation or
that it occurred with his "knowledge and consent." Id.
(indicating that a plaintiff must show that the supervisor knew
"about the conduct and facilitate[d] it, approve[d] it,
condone[d] it, or turn[ed] a blind eye.").
DeLuca argues that there are no allegations that he had any
personal involvement with the termination of Foster. He correctly
points out that the complaint alleges only that his Chief of
Staff, Proft, fired Foster. There are not even any conclusory
allegations in the complaint that indicate that DeLuca directed,
acquiesced in, or had knowledge of Foster's termination. As
indicated above, Foster is not entitled to proceed against DeLuca
merely because he is the mayor because the doctrine of respondeat
superior does not apply for Section 1983 claims. Foster claims that she has not alleged that DeLuca had any
involvement in her termination because she "has not yet had an
opportunity to depose anyone who has knowledge of the link
between Mr. Proft, DeLuca's chief of staff, and DeLuca." (Ans.
3). However, a plaintiff is not entitled to pursue a claim
against a defendant based solely upon mere conjecture that she
may discover evidence that might implicate the defendant. A
plaintiff must have some basis for an action or else it is a
frivolous action. Foster theorizes that, as Chief of Staff, Proft
would probably have discussed personnel decisions with DeLuca.
(Ans. 4). Foster's admitted speculation concerning DeLuca's
knowledge of her termination is not a sufficient basis to
proceed. Foster has not alleged any sort of involvement by DeLuca
in her termination directly or indirectly. Therefore, we grant
DeLuca's motion to dismiss.
II. Claim Against the City
The City moves to dismiss the claim against the City. The
doctrine of respondeat superior cannot be utilized to hold
local governmental units liable for Section 1983 violations.
Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691
(1978). A municipal governmental unit cannot be held liable under
Section 1983 "unless the deprivation of constitutional rights is
caused by a municipal policy or custom." Kujawski v. Board of
Comm'rs. Of Bartholomew County, Indiana, 183 F.3d 734, 737 (7th Cir. 1999). A local governmental unit's
unconstitutional policy, practice or custom can be shown by: "(1)
an express policy that causes a constitutional deprivation when
enforced; (2) a widespread practice, that, although unauthorized,
is so permanent and well-settled that it constitutes a "custom or
usage" with the force of law; or (3) an allegation that a person
with final policymaking authority caused the injury." Chortek v.
City of Milwaukee, 356 F.3d 740, 748 (7th Cir. 2004). We
agree with the City that Foster has failed to allege that any
City policy, practice, or custom caused her termination. Even
when reading the complaint in a light most favorable to Foster,
the allegations indicate nothing more than that DeLuca fired her
as part of a personal vendetta against her for supporting the
opposing party. No policy or practice is implicated by her
allegations. Foster alleges that Proft fired her, there is no
allegation that he had final policy-making authority at the City.
Therefore, we grant the City's motion to dismiss.
Based on the foregoing analysis, we grant the motion to dismiss
in its entirety and deny the motion to strike as moot.
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