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King v. State

September 15, 2006

APRIL KING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF OHIO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King

OPINION AND ORDER

This is a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §§1983 ("Section 1983"), 1985 ("Section 1985") and 2000e-5 ("Title VII"), in which plaintiff, formerly a corrections officer, claims that the termination of her employment, purportedly because she violated rules prohibiting personal relations with current or former inmates, was effected in contravention of her rights under the Constitution of the United States and because of her sex and race. Plaintiff also challenges the relevant rules under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. With the consent of the parties, 28 U.S.C. Section 636(c), this matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants to dismiss Counts One and Eight of the First Amended Complaint ("Defendants' Motion to Dismiss"), Doc. No. 9. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. RELEVANT FACTS

Plaintiff is an African American woman who began work for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC") in mid-1991 as a corrections officer. First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 3, 11. On May 4, 2004, plaintiff's employment was terminated for allegedly engaging in an unauthorized relationship with a paroled inmate, a violation of Rule 46 of ODRC's Standards of Employee Conduct. Id. ¶¶ 13, 17. Before her termination, plaintiff was the subject of an investigation and a pre-disciplinary hearing. Id. ¶¶ 17-30.

While employed at ODRC, plaintiff was a bargaining unit employee and, as such, she filed a grievance over her termination, which grievance proceeded to arbitration. Id. ¶¶ 31-32. The arbitrator concluded that ODRC had just cause to terminate plaintiff for violation of Rule 46. Id. ¶ 33.

Plaintiff filed this action on October 21, 2005, and on October 25, 2005, filed an amended complaint naming as defendants ODRC, former ODRC Director Reginald A. Wilkinson and former ODRC Deputy Director Terry Collins in their official capacities; Investigator Paul Arledge, Institutional Inspector Carl Sayers and Parole Officer D.J. Norris in their personal capacities; and Major William Blaney and Arbitrator David Pincus in their official and personal capacities. First Amended Complaint pgs. 1-2, ¶¶ 4-10, 50. Plaintiff alleges eight causes of action in the First Amended Complaint:

Count One 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against defendants Arledge, Sayers, Norris and Blaney in their individual capacities for allegedly violating plaintiff's substantive due process rights;

Count Two: 42 U.S.C. § 1985 claim against defendants Arledge, Sayers, Norris and Blaney in their individual capacities for allegedly conspiring to violate plaintiff's civil rights;

Count Three: disparate impact claim under Title VII; Count Four: disparate treatment claim under Title VII;

Counts Five and Six: Section 1983 claims challenging Rule 46 and Standards of Employee Conduct as unconstitutionally vague;

Count Seven: Section 1983 claim challenging Rule 46 and the Standards of Employee Conduct as unconstitutionally overbroad; and Count Eight: Section 1983 claim challenging Rule 46 and the Standards of Employee Conduct as violative of plaintiff's right to freedom of association and privacy.

First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 49-93.

On February 2, 2006, defendants filed Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Doc. No. 9, requesting dismissal of the First Amended Complaint in its entirety. On March 24, 2006, plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Memorandum Contra Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Plaintiff's Memorandum Contra"), Doc. No. 14, wherein she, inter alia, voluntarily dismissed with prejudice Count Two of the First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's Memorandum Contra at 2.

On April 7, 2006, defendants filed the Reply Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Defendants' Reply"), Doc. No. 21, wherein they concede that discovery may be appropriate as to all remaining claims except those asserted in Counts One and Eight. Defendants' Reply at 1. Therefore, the only claims presently before the Court in connection with Defendants' Motion to Dismiss are Count One, a substantive due process claim, and Count Eight, a claim based on plaintiff's claimed rights to freedom of association and privacy.

II. ANALYSIS

Defendants move to dismiss (a) Counts One and Eight of the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), (b) Counts One and Eight against the defendants sued in their individual capacity based on their entitlement to qualified immunity on these two claims, and ©) Count Eight as it relates to the availability of monetary damages against defendants Wilkinson and Collins in their official capacities.

A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted

1. Standard

A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Roth Steel Prod. v. Sharon Steel Co., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983). In determining whether dismissal on this basis is appropriate, the complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Bower v. Federal Express Corp., 96 F.3d 200, 203 (6th Cir. 1996); Misch v. The Cmty. Mutual Ins. Co., 896 F. Supp. 734, 738 (S.D. Ohio 1994). A claim will be dismissed if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

Thus, this Court will grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint is without merit because of an absence of facts or law to support the claims in it, or if on the face of the complaint there is an insurmountable bar to relief. See generally, Rauch v. Day & Night Mfg. Corp., 576 F.2d 697, 702 (6th Cir. 1978).

2. Discussion

Plaintiff brings Count One of the First Amended Complaint against defendants Arledge, Sayers, Norris and Blaney in their personal capacities. First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 52, 53. Plaintiff alleges that these four defendants, all acting under color of state law, deprived plaintiff "of a right secured by the Constitution of the United States in violation of 42 U.S.C., Section 1983, specifically, Plaintiff's property interest in her continued employment with ODRC." Id. ¶¶ 50, 51. Plaintiff alleges that defendants Arledge, Sayers, Norris and Blaney provided false testimony (defendant Blaney in his pre-disciplinary hearing report, and the others in their testimony during the arbitration hearing), which presumably led to her ...


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