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Edwards v. City of Steeleville

March 7, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


A. Factual and Procedural History

On February 22, 2005, Plaintiff Alfred Matthew Edwards filed with this Court a nine-count Complaint against several defendants: The City of Steeleville, Michael Armstrong, The Steeleville City Council, Imogene Fiene, Dennis Fulkrod, Andrew Gerlach, David Harper, Robert Reiss, and Cindy Sickmeyer (hereinafter "Defendants") (Doc. 1). In Edwards' nine separate Counts -- each directed at one of the nine named defendants -- Edwards asserts that he was deprived of "freedoms, liberties, and rights" pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, when he was terminated from his position of employment as a full-time police officer for the City of Steeleville.

Now before this Court is the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 4).

B. Analysis

In their motion to dismiss, the Defendants assert multiple arguments for dismissal. The Court considers each in turn.

Count III against the Steeleville City Council

The Defendants first argue that the Steeleville City Council, the defendant against which Count III is asserted, is not a separate legal entity capable of being sued. The Defendants are correct, as the Steeleville City Council is simply the legislative body for the City of Steeleville, which is already named as the defendant in Edwards' Count I. Count III asserts the same cause of action, recites the same factual allegations, and requests the same relief as Count I. Accordingly, the Court hereby DISMISSES Count III with prejudice.

Count II against Michael Armstrong

As to Edwards' claim against Michael Armstrong in his individual capacity, the Defendants assert two bases for dismissal. First, the Defendants assert that Michael Armstrong (as well as the other individually named defendants) is immune from suit because of, inter alia, the doctrine of "qualified immunity." Second, the Defendants argue that the claim against Armstrong should be dismissed for Edwards' failure to state a valid cause of action against him.

The Supreme Court has instructed lower federal courts faced with motions to dismiss based on qualified immunity to determine first whether the complaint states valid causes of action. Only if the Court finds the complaint states valid causes of action should the Court determine whether immunity shields the defendants from trial and liability. Kitzman-Kelly v. Warner, 203 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir. 2000)(citing Count of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998)). Bearing this in mind, the Court first considers whether Count II states a claim upon which relief can be granted.

FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true, and construes all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof. Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is warranted only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Mattice v. Memorial Hosp. Of South Bend, Inc., 249 F.3d 682, 684 (7th Cir. 2001), citingConley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Accord Hishon, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is appropriate only if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations").

"Federal complaints plead claims rather than facts." Kolupa v. Roselle Park District, -- F.3d - -, 2006 WL 306955 *1 (7th Cir. Feb. 10, 2006). Under the liberal notice pleading requirements of the federal rules, all that is required to state a claim "is a short statement, in plain ... English, of the legal claim." Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999); FED.R.CIV.P.8(a)(2). "It is enough to name the plaintiff and the defendant, state the nature of the grievance, and give a few tidbits (such as the date) that will let the defendant investigate." Kolupa, at * 1. "A full narrative is unnecessary." Id.; see also, e.g., Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002); McDonald v. Household International, Inc., 425 F.3d 424, 427-28 (7th Cir. 2005); Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073, 1077-78 (7th Cir. 1992). Thus, Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal should be denied "if any facts that might be established within [a plaintiff's] allegations would permit a judgment for the plaintiff." Duda v. Board of Education of Franklin Park Public School District No. 84, 133 F.3d 1054, 1057 (7th Cir. 1998).

The Defendants argue that Edwards' claim against Michael Armstrong, the Mayor of Steeleville, must fail because Edwards "does not allege that [Armstrong] was a decision maker who might have a duty to provide due process to the plaintiff" (Doc. 5, p.2). The Court acknowledges that Edwards' complaint is silent on this point. However, on a motion to dismiss, "silence is not a concession ..., [s]ilence is just silence and does not justify dismissal ...." Kolupa, at *2. "[C]complaints need not narrate events that correspond to each aspect of the applicable rule ...." Id. at *1. "When ...

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