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Hackett v. Board of Education of The Marysville Exempted Village School District

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

June 5, 2019

MELISSA HACKETT, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE MARYSVILLE EXEMPTED VDLLAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          Chelsey M. Vascura Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Board of Education of the Marysville Exempted Village School District's ("Defendant") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff Melissa Hackett has filed a response (ECF No. 14) and Defendant has replied (ECF No. 15). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 13) is GRANTED.

         I.

         Plaintiff Melissa Hackett ("Plaintiff" or "Ms. Hackett") commenced this action on October 25, 2018, filing a Complaint asserting one claim against the Defendant, alleging a violation of Plaintiffs Due Process rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (See generally Compl. [ECF No. 1]). Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on December 19, 2018. (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 8, 2019. (See generally Am. Compl. [ECF No. 6]). The Amended Complaint contains three claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Plaintiff also seeks attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (See generally id.).

         On April 17, 2014, Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a written Administrator's Contract ("the Contract") pursuant to Ohio Revised Code § 3319.02. (See Contract at 3 [ECF No. 6, Ex. 1]). Pursuant to the Contract, Ms. Hackett would serve as Principal at one of Defendant's schools for a term of three years, beginning on August 1, 2014 and ending on July 31, 2017. (Id. at 1). Further, Plaintiff states, this Contract was subject to renewal for a two-year term if Plaintiff were not given written notice of Defendant's intent to not re-employ her. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11-12). Similarly, Plaintiff had a continuing employment contract with Defendant entitling her to work as a teacher for Defendant unless she was fired or suspended in accordance with Ohio law. (Id. ¶¶ 17-19).

         However, Plaintiff received a letter dated July 17, 2015, from Defendant informing her that the Board adopted resolutions: 1) declaring its intent to consider the termination of her administrator and teacher contracts; and 2) placing Plaintiff on unpaid suspension until the conclusion of such proceedings. (Termination Letter [ECF No. 9-2]; Mandamus Compl. ¶¶ 2-3 [ECF No. 13-1]).[1] Plaintiff was, in fact, suspended without pay effective July 16, 2015. (Compl. ¶ 7 [ECF No. 1]). After receiving this letter, Plaintiff submitted a written demand for a referee hearing in accordance with Ohio Rev. Code § 3319.16. (Demand Letter [ECF No. 9-1]; Mandamus Compl. ¶ 4). A list of potential referees was provided to Plaintiff in a letter dated July 29, 2015 and, in that same letter, Plaintiff was advised that her hearing was scheduled for August 25, 2015. (Mandamus Compl. ¶¶ 5-6). But while the parties agreed upon a referee, the August 25, 2015 hearing did not take place and was not rescheduled, all for reasons not explained in the record of this case. (Id. ¶¶7-9).

         In her first cause of action, Plaintiff submits that by failing to provide a hearing with regard to her contractual compensation, the defendant violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-9). Further, Plaintiffs second claims asserts that, after Plaintiff invoked her right to have a referee hear her case, Defendant could not lawfully terminate her contract prior to such hearing. (See Id. ¶¶ 10-16). And in her third claim for relief, Plaintiff maintains that she still has an active teacher's contract with Defendant which further entitles her to compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19).

         Defendant contends that: 1) Plaintiffs first claim is time-barred; and 2) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted for her second and third causes of action. (Def. Mot. at 5-11 [ECF No. 13]). Plaintiff replied that this action was timely filed and that her second and third claims were pleaded sufficiently. (See generally Pl. Opp'n [ECF No. 14]).

         II.

         The Court reviews a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings in the same manner it would review a motion made under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Vichers v. Fairfield Med. Ctr., 453 F.3d 757, 761 (6th Cir. 2006). Rule 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of actions that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Generally, an action will be dismissed under this standard where "there is no law to support the claims made." Stew Farm, Ltd. v. Nat. Res. Conservation Serv., 967 F.Supp.2d 1164, 1169 (S.D. Ohio 2013) (citing Ranch v. Day & Night Mfg. Corp., 576 F.2d 697, 702 (6th Cir. 1978)). The same holds where "the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim." Id. Rule 8(a)(2) requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See also Bett Atl. Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). To meet this standard, a complain must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (clarifying the plausibility standard articulated in Twombley.).

         Several considerations inform whether a complaint meets the facial-plausibility standard. "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." Id. at 678. Further, the factual allegations of a pleading "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombley, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint will not, however, "suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombley, 555 U.S. at 557). Courts must construe the claim at issue in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, accept all factual allegations as true, and make reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008).

         III.

         A. Documents not part of Plaintiffs Amended Complaint

         "If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). "Under a well-established exception to Rule 12(d), courts may consider documents attached to a Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) motion without coverting either into a summary-judgment motion if the attached materials are: (i) 'referred to in the plaintiffs complaint and are central to [the] claims' or (ii) 'matters of public record.' Kassem v. Ocwen Laon Servicing, LLC, 704 Fed.Appx. 429, 432 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting McLaughlin v CNS Gas Co., LLC, 639 Fed.Appx. 296, 298-99 (6th Cir. 2016); see also Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Va., 177 F.3d 507, 514 (6th Cir. 1999)).

         Attached to Defendant's Answer to the Amended Complaint are two exhibits: "Exhibit A" is Plaintiffs letter demanding a hearing before a referee prior to the final decision to terminate her contract, (see Demand Letter [ECF No. 9-1]); "Exhibit B" is Defendant's letter to Plaintiff notifying her of Defendant's decisions to terminate her contracts and suspend her without pay, (see Termination Letter). Defendant has attached as "Exhibit A" to its Rule 12(c) Motion, Plaintiffs Complaint for Writ of Mandamus, filed in the Third District Court of Appeals in the State of Ohio. (See generally Mandamus Compl. [ECF No. 13-1]).

         Defendant submits that the Court can consider these attachments without converting its Rule 12 Motion into a motion for summary judgment as the documents are all matters of public record. (Def. Mot. at 4-5). Defendant further avers that the documents attached to its Answer can be considered as they "fill [...] in the contours and details of the plaintiffs complaint." (Id. at 5) (quoting Yeary v. Goowill Industries-Knoxville, Inc., 107 F.3d 443, 445 (6th Cir. 1997); see also Lion Apparel v. City of Cincinnati, No. 1:05-cv-61, 2006 WL 4643320, at *1 (Mar. 13, 2006)). Plaintiff does not ...


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