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Cahan v. Summit County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 7, 2017




         Several motions are before the Court. Defendant Summit County (“County”) and defendant Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division (“CCP/DRD”), have each moved to dismiss all claims against it, pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 7 [“County MTD”]; Doc. No. 8 [“CCP/DRD MTD”].) Plaintiff Deborah Cahan (“plaintiff” or “Cahan”) has filed an omnibus response to the dispositive motions and has moved to amend the complaint. (Doc. No. 13 [“Pl. Opp'n MTD/MTA”].) CCP/DRD has filed an opposition to the motion to amend (Doc. No. 14 [“CCP/DRD Opp'n MTA”]), and has filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 15 [“CCP/DRD MTD Reply”].) Plaintiff has also filed a reply in support of her motion to amend. (Doc. No. 16 [“MTA Reply”].) For all of the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion to amend is denied, and defendants' motions to dismiss are granted. This case is dismissed.

         I. Background

         According to the complaint, plaintiff was “employed as a Magistrate in the Summit County Domestic Relations Court from September 2007 until April 17, 2015[.]” (Doc. No. 1 (Complaint [“Compl.”]) ¶ 9.) During her tenure with CCP/DRD, she suffered from an unidentified “disability, ” and she maintains that defendants knew about her condition. (Id. ¶ 6.) “As a magistrate, she was assigned to conduct mediation of disputed parenting matters in a confidential, unrecorded, environment” which necessitated that she take notes and draft memoranda and orders, as well as perform other clerical functions. (Id. ¶ 13.) At the time of her interview, she requested dictation equipment because her disabling condition made it too painful to type. She was promised a laptop and a dictaphone, “but never received either requested accommodation.” (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On January 7, 2015, plaintiff began a leave of absence for one of the many surgeries she underwent to address her “disabling condition.” (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.) On April 2, 2015, while still on leave, Ken Teleis, Court Administrator for CCP/DRD, sent her an email inquiring as to whether she would be available to return to work on April 6, 2015. (Id. ¶ 16.) At a meeting with Administrative Law Judge John Quinn the following day (April 7, 2015), plaintiff advised that she would need to speak with her physician at her next appointment on April 14, 2015 to determine her availability. In response to Judge Quinn's inquiry into needed accommodations, plaintiff requested a dedicated secretary, but was advised that she could not have one. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         On April 14, 2015, plaintiff informed Judge Quinn that her physician had recommended that she take an additional three months of leave “to address one aspect of her disabling condition.” (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20.) Her request for additional leave was denied, and, on April 16, 2015, an internal court email was generated advising that plaintiff's position had been eliminated. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 24.) On April 17, 2015, plaintiff was informed in writing that she was terminated. She was given the option to resign, but she refused. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         After unsuccessfully pursuing a timely discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), on October 28, 2016, plaintiff filed the present case in federal court. She raised federal claims of disability discrimination, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1201-12117; ADA retaliation; gender based discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; and state law gender and disability based discrimination, and retaliation, pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.01(A)(2). She requested compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and costs.

         CCP/DRD seeks dismissal on the ground that, as a state court, it is not sui juris, and consequently “cannot sue or be sued as a matter of law.” (CCP/DRD MTD at 90, [1] citing cases.) The County bases its dispositive motion on the fact that plaintiff cannot establish that an employment relationship existed between her and the County, and, as such, the County played no role in any employment decisions involving plaintiff. (County MTD at 75.) Additionally, the County contends that plaintiff has failed to satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8. (Id. at 77.)

         In her omnibus response, petitioner indicates that she no longer wishes to sue the County, stating specifically that she “does not seek to pursue her alleged claims against the County of Summit.” (Pl. Opp'n MTD/MTA at 106.) She opposes CCP/DRD's dispositive motion, challenging the claim that the court is not sui juris. She also requests leave to file an amended complaint under Rule 15(a)(2). The proposed amended complaint, appended to her motion and omnibus response, eliminates all of the federal claims, drops the County as a defendant, and adds three new defendants: Judge Quinn, Administrative Judge from January 2013 to the present; Judge Carol Dezo, duly elected judge of CCP/DRD and Administrative Judge from 2001 until January 2013; and Kenneth Teleis. (Doc. No. 13-1 (Proposed Amended Complaint [“P. Am. Compl.”]).)

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend

         A. Rule 15(a) Standard of Review

          Rule 15(a)(1)(B) permits amendment of pleadings as a matter of course within 21 days of service of a motion under Rule 12(b). However, if a plaintiff wishes to file an amended complaint after the 21 day grace period and cannot obtain written permission from the opposing party, she is required to seek leave of court to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) & 2009 Advisory Notes to Rule 15(a)(2) (The provision permitting a right to amend as a matter of course within 21 days forces “the pleader to consider carefully and promptly the wisdom of amending to meet the arguments in the motion [to dismiss].”); Middleton v. Rogers Ltd., Inc., 804 F.Supp.2d 632, 639 (S.D. Ohio 2011) (citation omitted). In these circumstances, courts are instructed that they should “freely give leave when justice so requires.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The rationale for this liberal policy is to allow disputes to be resolved on the merits and not as a result of technical objections to the pleadings. See Marks v. Shell Oil Co., 830 F.2d 68, 69 (6th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). Where there are pending before the Court both a dispositive motion and a motion to amend the complaint, the Court must first address the motion to amend the complaint. Ellison v. Ford Motor Co., 847 F.2d 297, 300 (6th Cir. 1988) (abuse of discretion to dismiss without considering pending motion to amend).

         The Supreme Court has stated that leave should be granted under Rule 15(a) unless there is “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment.” See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178. 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962). A motion for leave to amend may be denied for futility “if the court concludes that the pleading as amended could not withstand a motion to dismiss.” Midkiff v. Adams Cnty. Reg'l Water Dist., 409 F.3d 758, 767 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Martin v. Assoc. Truck Lines, Inc., 801 F.2d 246, 249 (6th Cir. 1986)); see Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 421 (6th Cir. 2000) (“A proposed amendment is futile if the amendment could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.”) (citation omitted)); Masherah v. Dettloff, 968 F.Supp. 336, 345 (E.D. Mich. 1997) (motion to amend denied as futile because pleading would not survive motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction).

         B. ...

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