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Pettit v. City of Springfield

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

February 17, 2017

LOREN D. PETTIT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation, KENNY WINSLOW, Chief of the Springfield Police Department, individually and in his official capacity, LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER MUELLER, individually and in his official capacity, and LIEUTENANT GREGORY WILLIAMSON, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (d/e 6) filed by Defendants City of Springfield, Illinois, a municipal corporation, Kenny Winslow, Christopher Mueller, and Gregory Williamson pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant City of Springfield, Illinois. Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Defendants Winslow, Mueller, and Williamson. All other claims brought by Plaintiff Loren D. Pettit survive Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts come from Plaintiff's Complaint. The Court accepts them as true at the motion to dismiss stage. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Plaintiff, an African-American, was employed by the Springfield Police Department from 2004 until his termination on June 10, 2014. Defendant Winslow, the Chief of Police for the Springfield Police Department, notified Plaintiff on or about November 14, 2013, that Plaintiff was being temporarily suspended and placed on administrative assignment pending the completion of an internal affairs investigation. During that investigation, Defendants Mueller and Williamson, Lieutenants with the Springfield Police Department, conducted or directed a search of Plaintiff's home. The search was conducted without Plaintiff's knowledge or consent, and the police officers who searched Plaintiff's home did not have a valid search warrant at the time of the search. The investigation which led to the search of Plaintiff's home was authorized by Defendant Winslow.

         On May 5, 2014, Defendant Winslow informed Plaintiff that the Springfield Police Department intended to file formal charges against Plaintiff for allegedly violating City of Springfield Civil Service Rule 6.1(I) by using alcohol or other controlled substances on the job or reporting to work under the influence of such substance. Despite having performed his duties as a police officer in a competent and satisfactory manner, Plaintiff was informed by Defendant Winslow on July 10, 2014, that he was being terminated from his employment as a police officer with the Springfield Police Department. Plaintiff alleges that he was discharged because he is African-American. Officers charged with violating Service Rule 6.1(I) or committing similar misconduct who were not African-American were not terminated.

         On March 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint against Defendants. Count I contains claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Count II contains claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, presumably based on an alleged violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Count III contains race discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss and their Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (d/e 7) on May 16, 2016, arguing that Plaintiff had failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted. Although it is not expressly stated, the wording of the Complaint suggests that each of Plaintiff's claims is directed at all four Defendants, and the Court has conducted its analysis of the Complaint and the Motion to Dismiss under that assumption.

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because they are claims to “redress the deprivation, under color of any State law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3). Additionally, the Court has jurisdiction over all of Plaintiff's claims because they all arise under federal statutes. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Plausibility means alleging factual content that allows a court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). A plaintiff's complaint must suggest a right to relief, “raising that possibility above a speculative level.” Kubiak v. City of Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 2016). “The required level of factual specificity rises with the complexity of the claim.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616-17 (7th Cir. 2011). When faced with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court “accept[s] as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016). “[L]egal conclusions and conclusory allegations merely reciting the elements of the claim are not entitled to this presumption of truth.” McCauley, 671 F.3d at 616.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint Does Not State a Cognizable Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         In 1977, Congress enacted a law stating that “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory . . . to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1981. This statutory provision “affords a federal remedy against discrimination in private employment on the basis of race.” Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 172 (1976). However, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 “does not create a private right of action against state actors.” Campbell v. Forest Pres. Dist. of Cook Cnty., Ill., 752 F.3d 665, 671 (7th ...


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