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Edelstein v. Stephens

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 31, 2018

Kimberly Edelstein, Plaintiff,
Judge Greg Stephens, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Michael R. Barrett, Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon the Magistrate Judge's February 16, 2018 Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 31). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Oral Argument. (Doc. 37).

         The parties were given proper notice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), including notice that the parties would waive further appeal if they failed to file objections to the R&R in a timely manner. See United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 949-950 (6th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R. (Doc. 36). Defendants filed a Response to Plaintiff's objections. (Doc. 39).

         Pursuant to S.D. Ohio R. Civ. 7.1(b)(2), oral argument is not “deemed to be essential to the fair resolution of the case because of its public importance or the complexity of the factual or legal issues presented.” Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion for Oral Argument (Doc. 37) is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings twenty causes of action based upon termination of her employment as a magistrate and staff attorney for Judge Gregory Stephens. In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge has set forth the factual allegations in the Amended Complaint (Doc. 31) and the same will not be repeated here except to the extent necessary to address Plaintiff's objections.

         Defendants, Judge Gregory Stephens, Michael T. Gmoser, Dan Ferguson, and Butler County, have moved for dismissal of Counts I, IV, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV (in part), XVI, XVII, XVIII, and XX based on failure to state a claim; and dismissal of Count II for lack of jurisdiction.

         The Magistrate Judge recommends that (1) Defendants' Motion To Dismiss the Complaint (Doc. 13) and Amended Motion To Dismiss the Complaint (Doc. 14) be denied as moot due to the filing of the Amended Complaint; (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Stay a Decision on the Motion to Dismiss as to Count II of the Amended Complaint only (Doc. 30) be DENIED; Defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal of the Amended Complaint (Doc. 22) be DENIED as to Counts I and XV, and GRANTED under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to Counts IV, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XVI, XVII, XVIII and XX and under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as to Count II.

         Plaintiff's objections are limited to the dismissal of her claims for violation of equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV); violation of substantive due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts VI, VII, and VIII); intentional infliction of emotional distress under Ohio law (Counts XVI and XVII); defamation under Ohio law (Counts XI and XII); and breach of contract and promissory estoppel under Ohio law (Counts XIV and XVIII). Accordingly, the Court's discussion is limited to those claims.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of review

         A complaint may be dismissed according to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for a “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bassett v. NCAA, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). The complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, yet it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).

         B. Section 1983

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) the plaintiff was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of law. Webb v. United States, 789 F.3d 647, 659 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Marcilis v. Twp. of Redford, 693 F.3d 589, 595 (6th Cir. 2012)).

         However, as the Sixth Circuit has explained: “It is not enough for a complaint under § 1983 to contain mere conclusory allegations of unconstitutional conduct by persons acting under color of state law. Some factual basis for such claims must be set forth in the pleadings.” Chapman v. City of Detroit, 808 F.2d 459, 465 (6th Cir. 1986).

         C. Equal Protection (Count IV)

         The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, § 1, provides that no State shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Equal Protection Clause “prohibits discrimination by government which either burdens a fundamental right, targets a suspect class, or intentionally treats one differently than others similarly situated without any rational basis for the difference.” Bench Billboard Co. v. City of Cincinnati, 675 F.3d 974, 986 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting TriHealth, Inc. v. Bd. of Comm'rs, 430 F.3d 783, 788 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         Plaintiff claims that Butler County violated her Equal Protection rights by recognizing Christmas as a “legal holiday” under Ohio Revised Code § 325.19(D)(1), but not providing protection for non-Christians who seek time off for different religious holidays.[1] Ohio Revised Code § 325.19 provides in relevant part:

In addition to vacation leave, a full-time county employee is entitled to eight hours of holiday pay for New Year's day, Martin Luther King day, Washington- Lincoln day, Memorial day, Independence day, Labor day, Columbus day, Veterans' day, Thanksgiving day, and Christmas day, of each year.

Ohio Rev. Code § 325.19(D)(1).

         Plaintiff takes issue with the analysis employed by the Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff argues that her claim is based on her right to the free exercise of her religion, ...

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