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Kouassi v. Western Illinois University

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

February 3, 2015

GILLES K. KOUASSI, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, ROSE McCONNELL and SUSAN MARTINELI-FERNANDEZ Defendants

Gilles K. Kouassi, Plaintiff, Pro se, Eau Claire, WI.

For Western Illinois University, Rose McConnell, Susan Martinelli-Fernandez, Defendants: Joshua D Ratz, LEAD ATTORNEY, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL, Springfield, IL; Bradley D Gillespie, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Springfield, IL.

ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Strike (Doc. 48), and Magistrate Judge Hawley's Report & Recommendation (" R& R") recommending that the Defendants' Motion to Strike be denied, but that Defendants' alternative request to dismiss Counts V, VI, VII, and VIII pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) be granted. (Doc. 54).

The parties were notified that failure to object to Judge Hawley's December 22, 2014 R& R within fourteen days after service would constitute a waiver of any objections. (Doc. 48 at 7) ( citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999)). Objections to the R& R were due by January 8, 2015. Defendants filed no objection to the R& R, but Plaintiff filed an objection on January 9, 2015. (Doc. 56).[1] Defendants did not file a memorandum in response to Plaintiff's objection, so this matter is ready for decision. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Judge Hawley's R& R. Counts V through VIII of Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint are dismissed.

Legal Standards

When a plaintiff files an Objection to an R& R, the Court reviews de novo those portions of it to which a specific written objection has been made. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). " The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.

District courts reviewing pro se complaints construe them liberally. See Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 687 (7th Cir. 2006). However, pro se plaintiffs remain the masters of their own complaints. See Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551, 552 (7th Cir. 2005). " District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants." Id. (quoting Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231, 124 S.Ct. 2441, 159 L.Ed.2d 338 (2004)).

Factual and Procedural Background

Judge Hawley's R& R has laid out the necessary factual and procedural background of the parties, Plaintiff's claims, and the facts involved in the litigation. (Doc. 54). Therefore, a familiarity with the case and the facts is presumed. The Court will summarize below background that is pertinent to this decision.

Judge Hawley recommended that Counts V through VIII of Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint be dismissed for failing to state a claim on which relief can be granted. In these Counts, Plaintiff alleges that two of Western Illinois University's employees -- Rose McConnell and Susan Martinelli-Fernandez -- violated his Title VII rights. McConnell served as the Chair of Western Illinois University's chemistry department at all times relevant to the complaint. (Doc. 46 at 15). Martinelli-Fernandez served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Western Illinois University from 2009 until the time Plaintiff was terminated. (Id. at 18). In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that McConnell discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin, in violation of Title VII (Id. at 15), and in Count VI, he alleges that Martinelli-Fernandez discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin in violation of Title VII. (Id. at 18). In Count VII, he alleges that McConnell retaliated against him in violation of Title VII ( id. at 22), and in Count VIII he alleges that Martinelli-Fernandez retaliated against him in violation of Title VII. (Id. at 25).

Discussion

Defendants moved to dismiss Counts V through VIII on the ground that supervisors may not be held liable in their individual capacity under Title VII. (Doc. 49 at 4, citing Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d 655, 677 (7th Cir. 2012); Williams v. Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 555 (7th Cir. 1995)). In the R& R, Judge Hawley agreed and dismissed the Counts. (Doc. 54 at 5).

Plaintiff does not challenge Judge Hawley's conclusion that supervisors may not be held liable in their individual capacity under Title VII. Nor could he, as Seventh Circuit case law is clear on that point. See, e.g., Passananti, 689 F.3d at 677; Williams, 72 F.3d at 555. Rather, Plaintiff argues that he stated additional claims in Counts V through VIII, including claims " under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and/or 42 U.S.C. § 1988." (Doc. 56 at 7). Plaintiff urges the Court to consider these allegations separately from his ...


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