The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert
THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 5). Plaintiff Adetunji Akande ("Akande") has responded to the motion (Doc. 15).
I. Standard for Dismissal
When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 908 (7th Cir. 2005); Holman v. Indiana, 211 F.3d 399, 402 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court should not grant a motion to dismiss unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove his claim under any set of facts consistent with the complaint. Brown, 398 F.3d at 908-09; Holman, 211 F.3d at 405. "[I]f it is possible to hypothesize a set of facts, consistent with the complaint, that would entitle the plaintiff to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is inappropriate." Brown, 398 F.3d at 909 (internal quotations omitted); see Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 715 (7th Cir. 2006).
Accepting all facts in Akande's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, the following facts are established.
Akande began working for the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") in 1990. Over the years, he rose through the ranks until in January 2003 he was promoted to the position of caseworker supervisor in the clinical services unit at Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson"). Defendant Randall Grounds was Robinson's warden and defendant Terry Guy was the assistant warden. Defendants Dee Dee Brookhart and Jeanie Campanella were the clinical services supervisor and acting supervisor, respectively, and were Akande's direct supervisors in his position of caseworker supervisor.
As a caseworker supervisor, Akande had supervisory, administrative and managerial responsibilities, including delegating work to and supervising caseworkers. The caseworker supervisor position was also subject to the Illinois Personnel Code, 20 ILCS 415/1 et seq., and Illinois' Central Management Services' ("CMS") Personnel Rules, both of which provided that employees could not be terminated or demoted without good cause.
In his first year in that position, the caseworkers Akande supervised submitted numerous incident reports criticizing Akande. Believing that these complaints reflected incompetence to perform the duties of caseworker supervisor, the defendants removed Akande's supervisory duties and his authority to delegate work to caseworkers and added numerous clerical tasks that would ordinarily be performed by employees subordinate to caseworkers. They implemented these duty changes from late 2003 into 2004 and without giving Akande any kind of notice or holding any kind of hearing. Although Akande's job title and pay were not affected by these changes in job responsibilities, the changes caused him to suffer an emotional illness for which he took a medical leave of absence. The changes to his duties also adversely impacted his opportunities to further his job skills and seek promotions within IDOC.
In November 2005, Akande filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by depriving him of a property interest without due process of law. The defendants now ask the Court to dismiss Akande's case on qualified immunity grounds because Akande had no property interest in his position or job responsibilities or, in the alternative, because, if he had such a property interest, it was not clearly established at the time of the relevant events in this case.
Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense that shields government officials from liability for civil damages where their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982); Denius v. Dunlap, 209 F.3d 944, 950 (7th Cir. 2000). It protects an official from suit "when she makes a decision that, even if constitutionally deficient, reasonably misapprehends the law governing the circumstances she confronted." Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198 (2004); accord Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 206 (2001). It applies only to state officials who occupy positions with discretionary or policymaking authority and who are acting in their official capacities. Harlow, 457 U.S. at 816; Denius, 209 F.3d at 950.
A court required to rule upon the qualified immunity issue must first consider whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, show that the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201; see Brosseau, 543 U.S. at 197; Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999). If it is clear that there has been no constitutional violation, there is no need for further inquiry; the official is entitled to qualified immunity. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201.
If the plaintiff has alleged a constitutional violation, the Court must also determine whether the right was sufficiently clear at the time of the violation that a reasonable official would have understood that what he was doing violated that right. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987); see Brosseau, 543 U.S. at 199; Wilson, 526 U.S. at 609; Denius, 209 F.3d at 950. The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that a constitutional right is clearly established. Denius, 209 F.3d at 950. The inquiry "must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition." Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201; accord Brosseau, 543 U.S. at 198. To determine whether the right was clearly established, this Court looks to Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decisions, then, if there is no controlling precedent, to all relevant caselaw to determine if there is a clear trend. Denius, 209 F.3d at 950-51. "Qualified immunity is dissolved, however, if a plaintiff points to a clearly analogous case ...