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Thomas v. Hyde

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 15, 2014



STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendant Randall D. Mendenhall (Docs. 32 and 33) and Defendant David Hyde (Doc. 35). Plaintiff has filed Responses to both motions (Docs. 37 and 39, respectively). Defendant Mendenhall (Doc. 38) and Defendant Hyde (Doc. 40) have both filed Reply briefs. Based on the following, the Court GRANTS Defendant Mendenhall's motion to dismiss (Docs. 32 and 33) and GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendant Hyde's motion to dismiss (Doc. 35).

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiff Barbara Jo Thomas filed her original Complaint on May 20, 2013 citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleging that Defendants violated her right to personal privacy, her substantive due process rights, and violated her Constitutional Rights by placing her in a position of danger (Doc. 2). Her original Complaint was dismissed by District Judge Michael J. Reagan for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff was granted leave to amend her Complaint and she filed an Amended Complaint alleging claims under § 1983 and 5 U.S.C. § 557 on November 27, 2013 (Doc. 24).

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleged that she lived in Olney, Illinois and sometime prior to May 24, 2011 she learned that illegal gambling was taking place at the Olney Eagles Club (Doc. 24 at ¶ 6a). Plaintiff submitted a report of the gambling to a website maintained by the Illinois Liquor Control Commissions, trusting that the information would remain confidential due to a statement on the Commission's website ( Id. at ¶ 6b; Exhibit A). Her report included her name, address, and the illegal activities she observed at the Eagles Club ( Id. at ¶ 6c). Defendant Mendenhall, an investigator with the Commission, relayed Plaintiff's complaint, without first redacting her name or providing instructions about the confidential nature of the information, to Defendant Hyde, the Richland County State's Attorney ( Id. at ¶ 6d).

Hyde filed a complaint and sought appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the case on April 21, 2011 ( Id. at ¶ 6e). David Rands was appointed special prosecutor on April 26, 2011, which Plaintiff alleges relieved Hyde of his prosecutorial duties ( Id. at ¶ 6f). However, Plaintiff alleges that on May 24, 2011, Hyde transmitted the complaint and Plaintiff's identifying information to John Racklin, counsel for Olney Eagles Club ( Id. at ¶ 6j). This occurred the same day that Racklin entered his appearance for Olney Eagles Club and the case against the club itself was dismissed. Robert Stahlman, president of the Club, also appeared in court that day, pled guilty, and received court supervision for the illegal gambling ( Id. at ¶¶ 6g-h).

On June 1, 2011, Plaintiff received a telephone call indicating that her information had been disclosed and that members of the Elks Lodge and Eagles Club knew she was the one who made the complaint about the illegal gambling ( Id. at ¶ 6k). Subsequently on August 17, 2011, Plaintiff received an anonymous letter from the Eagles with a copy of her report on the gambling ( Id. at ¶ 6m). The communication was sent to Plaintiff in an effort to intimidate and harass her ( Id. at ¶ 6n). The receipt of the letter made her emotionally distraught and in fear of her safety ( Id. ).

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that Hyde's and Mendenhall's actions were in violation "of her right of personal privacy", was in "violation of substantive due process", and placed her "in a position of danger in violation of her Constitutional Rights." (Doc. 24 at ¶ 6). She specifically alleges that the disclosure was in violation of her constitutionally protected privacy interests in not having personal or sensitive information made public in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. She also alleges that the disclosure affected her reputation as a public employee and thus violated her liberty interests under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment. She further alleges that the disclosure to the Eagles Club was in violation of the duty and express agreement to keep the information confidential, placed the Plaintiff in danger of retaliation and retribution, and placed her in a position of special danger of having her liberty interest in her personal safety violated. Plaintiff also alleges that the disclosure had a chilling effect on her right to free speech under the First Amendment and that the disclosure interfered with her freedom of association, particularly as it related to other members of the Eagles Club, in violation of the First Amendment. Plaintiff finally alleges that the disclosure affected her property interest in continued public employment.

III. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has explained that although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations to avoid Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, it must contain "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Scott v. Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., 725 F.3d 772, 782 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). See also Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 504 (7th Cir. 2013).

A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." D.B. ex rel. Kurtis B. v. Kopp, 725 F.3d 681, 684 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937(2009)). The claim (or complaint) must "go beyond mere labels and conclusions" and contain "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." G&S Holdings, LLC v. Continental Casualty Co., 697 F.3d 534, 537-38 (7th Cir. 2012).

Stated another way: "to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge after Iqbal and Twombly, the plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together, ' and the question the court should ask is could these things have happened, not did they happen.'" Estate of Davis v. Wells Fargo Bank, 633 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2011)(citing Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404-05 (7th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original)).

Courts "must still approach motions under Rule 12(b)(6) by construing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in her favor.'" Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1148 (2010) (quoting Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). The court takes well-pled facts as true but does not accept as true statements of law or unsupported conclusory factual allegations. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013).

So this Court reviews Thomas' complaint, taking as true all well-pled factual allegations. After excising any allegations not accepted as true, the Court must decide whether the remaining factual allegations plausibly suggest that Thomas is entitled to relief. McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011). Of course, a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion "must be decided solely on the face of the complaint and any attachments that accompanied its filing." Miller v. Herman, ...

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