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Kugler v. Board of Education of The City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

July 26, 2017

v. JOHN KUGLER BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff John Kugler (“Kugler”) filed this suit against Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago (“the Board”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that certain Board actions have violated his rights under the First Amendment. In turn, the Board has filed a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment affirming that its actions toward Kugler are reasonable and comport with the First Amendment, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-101 et seq. Kugler has moved to dismiss the counterclaim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, to strike the counterclaim under Rule 12(f). For the reasons that follow, Kugler's motion [38] is granted in part and denied in part.

         Factual Background [1]

         This lawsuit arises from a letter dated May 6, 2016, by which the Board restricted Kugler's access to Board personnel and property. Countercl. ¶¶ 31-32, ECF No. 21. The letter informed Kugler that restrictions were being imposed due to his “disruptive, violent, and threatening actions, ” and recounted specific incidents of such behavior. See Id. ¶¶ 16-32; see also id., Ex. 2, 5/6/16 Letter from Board to Kugler (“5/6/16 Letter”). The Board cited Kugler's verbally abusive and physically threatening behavior during various school meetings and grievance hearings while acting as a Chicago Teacher's Union (“CTU”) representative. Id. ¶¶ 16-24; see also 5/6/16 Letter. The letter also discussed an email Kugler had sent that the Board deemed a potential security threat. Countercl. ¶¶ 27-28.

         As a result of his conduct, and as explained in the letter, the Board has prohibited Kugler from entering Board property, except to attend public meetings or school activities involving his children, and then only when notice is provided to school officials. Id. ¶ 5. In addition, the letter imposed certain restrictions on Kugler's communications with Board employees. See id.; 5/6/16 Letter. On May 17, 2016, the Board issued a separate letter clarifying the latter restriction as it pertains to communications with CTU members versus Board management. Countercl. 33; see also id., Ex. 3, 5/17/16 Letter from Board to Kugler.

         Subsequently, on August 24, 2016, Kugler filed this suit, alleging that the restrictions violate his rights under the First Amendment. Id. ¶ 34; see also Compl., ECF No. 1. In its counterclaim, the Board seeks a declaratory judgment that:

i. The First Amendment does not prohibit the Board from imposing reasonable restrictions on Kugler to prevent him from engaging in verbal or physical abuse, including the use of profanities and vulgarities, directed at school principals, Board hearing officers, and other Board employees;
ii. The First Amendment does not prohibit the Board from imposing reasonable restrictions on Kugler to prevent him from harming school principals, Board hearing officers, or other Board employees or threatening or suggesting harm to school principals, Board hearing officers, or other Board employees or Board property; and
iii. The Board may impose reasonable restrictions on Kugler to foster a workplace that is not hostile and does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, or the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101.

Countercl. ¶ 46.

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted. Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The complaint “need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis.” Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). These pleading standards are equally applicable to counterclaims. See Cozzi Iron & Metal, Inc. v. U.S. Office Equip., Inc., 250 F.3d 570, 574 (7th Cir. 2001) (applying the same standard in reviewing a motion to dismiss a counterclaim as with a motion to dismiss a complaint).

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss a counterclaim under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the counterclaim and must draw all possible inferences in the counter-plaintiff's favor. See Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081. In addition, while reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider not only the allegations in the counterclaim itself, but also any documents attached to the counterclaim. See Geinosky v. City of Chi., 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Under Rule 12(f), “[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are generally disfavored because they “potentially serve only to delay.” Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). But when “motions to strike remove unnecessary clutter from the case, they serve to expedite, not delay.” Id. A district court “has considerable discretion in striking any ...


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