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Ketelsen v. Smith

August 14, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge


Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) [Doc. #6]; and Plaintiff's Resistance to Defendants' Motion [Doc. #9]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion will be DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.

I. Background

For the purposes of this motion, the following facts which are alleged in the Amended Complaint will be accepted as true. See Williams v. Ramos, 71 F.3d 1246, 1250 (7th Cir. 1995). From September 1, 2004, through June 8, 2005, Plaintiff Jillian Ketelsen ("Jillian") was employed by the Wells Center as a Substance Abuse Counselor. Pursuant to a contract between the Wells Center and the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), Jillian provided substance abuse counseling to juveniles at the Kenawee Youth Center ("KYC").

Beginning in January 2005, Jillian alleges that she was falsely accused of having a personal relationship with one of the youths at the KYC, in particular a juvenile by the name of T.K. During that time, Jillian was also accused of exposing her breasts to the youth. Although an investigation into the later incident found the claim to be without merit, allegations concerning Jillian and inappropriate personal relationships with other youth continued. In particular, Defendant Ronald Smith ("Smith"), Chief of Security at the KYC, alleged that in May 2005, Jillian allowed a youth to place his head in her crotch area. Smith also encouraged incarcerated youth to spy on Jillian and report to him how often T.K. was with her. Furthermore, on June 5, 2005, Defendant Matthew Doug Linze ("Linze"), a Correction Counselor at the KYC, submitted an incident report claiming that Jillian was attempting to keep T.K. in treatment for her own personal benefit.

Jillian alleges that in addition to the false allegations, she also endured acts of sexual harassment. On multiple occasions Linze made sexually explicit remarks toward Jillian. Specifically, on May 24, 2005, Linze told Jillian that he would "fuck her every night if he had a girlfriend that looked like her" and on June 1, 2005, he stated that he "likes to eat pussy." Although Jillian complained about Smith and Linze to Defendant Jennifer Stoudt ("Stoudt"), Warden at the KYC, no investigation was conducted.

In response to the allegations that Jillian had maintained inappropriate relationships with youth, Warden Stoudt refused to give Jillian access to the KYC on June 5, 2005. In addition, Warden Stoudt and Smith both recommended to IDOC Deputy Director, Freedhauer, that Jillian not be allowed to transfer to other IDOC facilities. At a meeting on June 8, 2005, the Wells Center sought to have Jillian reinstated to her position, but despite having no evidence supporting the false allegations, Warden Stoudt and Smith denied Jillian's reinstatement. As a result of Jillian being barred from working at IDOC facilities, the Wells Center terminated her employment on June 7, 2005.

II. Legal Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations must be accepted as true. Williams v. Ramos, 71 F.3d 1246, 1250 (7th Cir. 1995). Therefore, a complaint can only be dismissed if a plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts upon which relief can be granted. Travel All Over the World, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1429-30 (7th Cir. 1996). However, this Court is not bound by a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Baxter by Baxter v. Vigo County School Corp., 26 F.3d 728, 730 (7th Cir. 1994).

III. Analysis

In support of their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that (1) Count IV fails to state a claim because a Title VII cause of action may not be pursued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) Count III fails to state a claim as Jillian was not deprived of either a property or a liberty interest; (3) Defendants are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity; and (4) Counts I and II are barred by the doctrines of sovereign immunity and public official immunity. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

1. Jillian may not bring a Title VII cause of action under section 1983 but Count IV does state a claim.

Section 1983 does not create substantive rights but instead provides an avenue to pursue claims for the violation of rights created elsewhere. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). Therefore, in order to pursue a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege conduct by someone acting under color of state law, which deprives the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 1 (1980); see also Trigg v. Fort Wayne Cmty. Schools, 766 F.2d 299, 300 (7th Cir. 1985).

In this case, it is not disputed that Defendants were acting under color of law. Instead, Defendants contest the substantive basis of Jillian's ยง 1983 action. In particular, Defendants argue that Jillian may not bypass the ...

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