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LaRiviere v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 22, 2017

JANICE LARIVIERE, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, Governing SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY-EDWARDSVILLE, PAUL FUGLINI, DONNA MEYER, and KENNETH NEHER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge

         Introduction and Background

         Pending before the Court is defendants' partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's count III claim (Doc. 35). LaRiviere opposes the motion (Doc. 32). Based on the pleadings and the applicable case law, the Court grants the motion.

         On October 14, 2016, defendants Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University (“SIU”), Paul Fuglini, Donna Meyer and Kenneth Neher removed this case from St. Clair County, Illinois Circuit Court to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (Doc. 1). On September 2, 2016, Janice LaRiviere, an African American, filed suit against defendants in state court alleging unlawful retaliation against SIU in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 (Count I); racial discrimination against SIU in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (Count II); damages against SIU for intentional discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981a (Count III); intentional infliction of emotional distress against Meyer, Fuglini and Neher (Count IV); and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Meyer, Fuglini and Neher (Count V). Thereafter, defendants filed a motion for more definite statement (Doc. 7). On November 21, 2016, after no response from LaRiviere, Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams granted the motion and directed LaRiviere to file an amended complaint that “identifies the capacity in which each Defendant is being sued in Counts 4 and 5, and identifies the specific Defendants who allegedly perpetrated each act alleged in the Complaint.” (Doc. 15).

         On November 23, 2016, LaRiviere filed a first amended complaint (Doc. 17).[1] The first amended complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3; Title VII; 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against SIU (Count I); violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2; Title VII; 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II); violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against SIU (Count III); violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Fuglini, Meyer and Neher (Count IV); intentional infliction of emotional distress against Meyer, Fuglini, and Neher (Count V) and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Fuglini, Meyer and Neher (Count VI). Thereafter, defendants moved to dismiss LaRiviere's Section 1981, Section 1983 and portions of her Title VII claims in the first amended complaint (Docs. 23 & 24) and defendants filed an answer (Doc. 25). In response, LaRiviere filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Doc. 30), a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss (Doc. 31) and a second amended complaint (Doc. 32) on January 2, 2017. On January 3, 2017, the Court granted her leave to file the amended complaint and found as moot the motion to dismiss (Docs. 33 & 34).

         The second amended complaint contains the following counts against defendants: violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3 against SIU (Count I); violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 against SIU (Count II); violations of 42 U.S.C. § § 1983 and 1981 against Fuglini, Meyer and Neher (Count III); intentional infliction of emotional distress against Meyer, Fuglini and Neher (Count IV) and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Fuglini, Meyer and Neher (Count V).

         In response to the second amended complaint, defendants filed the partial motion to dismiss Count III (Docs. 35 & 36) and an answer (Doc. 37). As the motion to dismiss is ripe, the Court turns to address the merits.

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Analysis

         Defendants argue that Count III of the second amended complaint fails to sufficiently plead a cause of action by failing to allege any facts to support a claim against either the official capacity defendants or the personal capacity defendants despite the Court's previous Order to plead with more particularity. Defendants also argue that the official capacity defendants are not “Persons” subject to suit under Section 1983 and that plaintiff's Section 1981 and Section 1983 for monetary damages against defendants in their official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. LaRiviere counters that she has stated a claim in that “[t]he first paragraph of Count III of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint delineates specifically each individual Defendant it is directed. … and that “each individual defendant ‘in their personal and official capacities subject to exceptions, directly participated in the discriminatory and retaliatory conduct described hereinabove' … hence, any and all acts mentioned in the preceding paragraphs which outlined discriminatory and retaliatory conduct.” (emphasis in original). As to the official capacity § 1983 claims, LaRiviere seems to argue that she is seeking equitable relief in that “persons can still be sued in their official capacity if prospected relief is requested i.e. an injunction or declaratory judgment and monetary damages that are ancillary to either.”

         Here, the LaRiviere's second amended complaint simply contains the following allegations the three individual defendants in Count III:

“48. That Defendants Paul Fuglini, Donna Meyer, and Kenneth Neher, individually, and in their personal and official capacities subject to exceptions, directly participated in the discriminatory and retaliatory conduct described hereinabove as part of a broader policy of discrimination towards the Plaintiff in retaliation for engaging in conduct protected by 42 U.S.C. Section 2000 et seq.
49. That the actions and conduct as alleged were acts under color of State law; that the aforesaid Defendants intentionally acted to deprive the Plaintiff of her rights and privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States ...

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