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Luster v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

December 11, 2008

MILTON LUSTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#27] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Milton Luster ("Luster"), is an African American. He began working for the Defendant, Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), on August 8, 1988, as a Correctional Officer. Over the years, he was promoted to the position of Correctional Sergeant, Correctional Lieutenant, and Correctional Captain. Following a restructuring of the IDOC in August 2003, the position of Correctional Captain was eliminated, and Luster returned to his former position of Correctional Lieutenant. At the time relevant to this action, he was a Correctional Lieutenant at Dwight Correctional Center.

On or about June 6, 2006, Luster wrote an incident report against Christina Cole ("Cole"), a white female Correctional Officer, complaining that she had been insubordinate and referred to him as a "bitch" during a conversation earlier that day. Luster's shift commander, Major Tamela Quinley, signed off on the incident report and forwarded it to Warden Marry Sigler.

Luster was off work from June 9, 2006, through June 10, 2006. When he returned to work on June 11, 2006, he was escorted to the Warden's Office by Assistant Warden Tamela Harris. Luster then met with Warden Sigler, who allegedly took his badge/identification and suspended him without explanation. On June 12, 2006, he received a letter from Warden Sigler officially placing him on administrative leave with pay. On August 18, 2006, he received a letter from Warden Sigler informing him that he had been discharged. Luster contends that he was discharged for writing an incident report against a white female employee, who then filed counter charges of harassment against him.

Luster filed his Complaint in the present action on February 8, 2008. His complaint was subsequently amended to allege racial discrimination in violation of Title VII (Count I), race and sex discrimination in violation of § 1983 (Count II), violation of his First Amendment right to free speech (Count III), violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection (Count IV) and due process (Count V), and retaliation on the basis of race in violation of Title VII (Count VI). Defendants has now moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Luster has filed his response, and this Order follows.

LEGAL STANDARD

Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased this standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. V. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc., 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

DISCUSSION

I. Eleventh Amendment

IDOC first argues that Counts II, IV, and V are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, as a suit against a state agency is treated the same as a suit against the state itself. Plaintiff's response to this argument misses the point and borders on frivolous.

The Eleventh Amendment provides the states with sovereign immunity, precluding federal court jurisdiction over suits brought by an individual against a non-consenting state. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996). State agencies, like the IDOC, enjoy the same sovereign immunity from suit as the states themselves. Kroll v. Board of Trustees of University of Illinois, 934 F.2d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 1991). It is well-settled that the IDOC, as a state agency, cannot be sued under § 1983. Johnson v. Doe, 234 F.3d 1273, 2000 WL 1529788, at *2 (7th Cir. Oct. 10, 2000), citing Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 120 S.Ct. 1858, 1866 (2000); Johnson v. Supreme Court of Illinois, 165 F.3d 1140, 1141 ...


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