January 5, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15-cv-08949 -
Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Manion and Williams, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
Roake, a former police officer for the Forest Preserve
District of Cook County, was ostensibly disciplined for
drinking alcohol at work. He responded with this lawsuit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unlawful retaliation
under the First Amendment. He also asserted a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim based on reputational harm. The
district court dismissed Roake's action under Rule
12(b)(6) for failure to state a plausible claim to relief. We
Brian Roake was a police officer for the Forest Preserve
District of Cook County, Illinois. His troubles began on
December 31, 2013, when he brought some champagne to a Forest
Preserve police station to celebrate the New Year. Roake says
that he was off duty at the time and that he got permission
from a sergeant (who was present at the celebration) to bring
the champagne. Roake and others drank the champagne at the
January 2014, the department initiated disciplinary
proceedings against Roake for his participation in the New
Year's Eve gathering. When Roake was interviewed about
the incident, the interviewing officer assured him that he
would not lose his job but "might be suspended for one
or two days at the most." On February 7, 2014, the
disciplinary proceedings culminated in what Roake calls a
"pre-disciplinary/pre-termination hearing." Roake
alleges that the hearing officers "upheld the
charges" against him, though he does not say what the
charges were. At that point, Roake says he saw the
"handwriting on the wall" and so resigned his job.
He also states, with no supporting facts, that he "would
have been terminated" if he had not resigned.
claims that his employer used his involvement in the New
Year's Eve party as a mere pretext for disciplining him.
The real reason he was disciplined, according to Roake, was
because he had previously reported to his employer two
instances of official misconduct within the police
department. First, in October 2013, he reported that a fellow
officer had engaged in racial profiling. Roake mentioned the
matter again during his disciplinary proceedings in January
2014, when he complained that it wasn't fair that he was
being investigated while the officer who engaged in racial
profiling was not.
second report, made around February 6, 2014, involved a
fellow officer whom Roake believed had been unjustly
disciplined. Earlier that month, the officer had contacted
Roake about a woman and children who were in the Forest
Preserves after hours in below-freezing weather. Roake
responded that the officers were "mandated
reporters" to the Department of Children and Family
Services (DCFS), so the officer called DCFS to report the
situation. The officer was later written up in connection
with the incident,  and Roake complained to his employer that
the write-up was unlawful.
resigning in February 2014, Roake applied for jobs in other
police departments. He alleges that officials of the Forest
Preserve department told certain prospective employers that
he had consumed alcohol while on duty and was not welcome to
reapply there. Roake claims that this damaged his
professional reputation and made it more difficult for him to
October 2015, Roake filed this § 1983 action against the
Forest Preserve District of Cook County and several officers
who were involved in the disciplinary proceedings against
him. He claims that the defendants violated the First
Amendment by disciplining him in retaliation for reporting
police misconduct. He also claims that the defendants
violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by
tarnishing his reputation among prospective employers. The
district court concluded that Roake failed to state a
plausible claim for relief and granted the defendants'
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Roake appeals.
review the grant of a motion to dismiss de novo, construing
all well-pleaded facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the
Circuit Ct. of Cook Cty.,804 F.3d 826, 829 (7th Cir.
2015). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must
"state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the ...