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Pugh v. Phenix City Police Department

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

March 12, 2015

GEORGE PUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
PHENIX CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

TERRY F. MOORER, Magistrate Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) this case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for review and submission of a report with recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law (Doc. 3, filed March 19, 2014). Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8, filed May 1, 2014). The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion to Dismiss, the briefs filed in support of and in opposition to the Motion (Docs. 8, 9, and 19) and the supporting and opposing evidentiary materials. For good cause, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge that the Defendants' Motion be GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

I. JURISDICTION

The district court has subject matter jurisdiction over this 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction). The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and there are adequate allegations to support both.[1] Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) this case was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for review and submission of a report with recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law (Doc. 2, filed August 15, 2013).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Although it must accept well-pled facts as true, the court is not required to accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions"). In evaluating the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings, the court must indulge reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor, "but we are not required to draw plaintiff's inference." Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005). Similarly, "unwarranted deductions of fact" in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of plaintiff's allegations. Id .; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1951 (stating conclusory allegations are "not entitled to be assumed true").

A complaint may be dismissed if the facts as pled do not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (explaining "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561-62, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (retiring the prior "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts" standard). In Twombly, the Supreme Court emphasized that a complaint "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations in a complaint need not be detailed but "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. at 555 (internal citations and emphasis omitted).

More recently, in Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated that although FED. R. CIV. P. 8 does not require detailed factual allegations; it does demand "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A complaint must state a plausible claim for relief, and "[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. The mere possibility the defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. The well-pled allegations must nudge the claim "across the line from conceivable to plausible." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

III. BACKGROUND

The Court accepts as true all relevant facts set forth by the Plaintiff in his Complaint (Doc. 1). As best as this Court can discern, this Title VII claim arises out of the termination of Plaintiff George Pugh's ("Pugh" or Plaintiff") employment with Defendant Phenix City Police Department ("PCPD"), as caused by the actions of Defendants Police Chief Ray Smith ("Chief Smith"), and Assistant Police Chief Robert Casteel ("Assistant Chief Casteel"). See Doc. 1.

Pugh states that in November of 2012, he sat for the "Boards, " an examination which determines if an officer will receive a promotion when vacancies arise for the ranks of Sergeant and Lieutenant. Id. The Boards consist of a written examination and an oral examination which are administered and graded by members of outside agencies in order to keep the grading impartial. Id. Pugh also states that pursuant to PCPD policy, Chief Smith and Assistant Chief Casteel are not allowed to have any contact with the graders. Pugh states that he has witnessed the graders, Chief Smith, and Assistant Chief Casteel leave the building together for a lunch meetings on more than one occassion. Id. Pugh states that during these lunch meetings, Chief Smith and Assistant Chief Casteel discuss with the graders which candidates they want to promote. Id.

Thus, Pugh argues Chief Smith and Assistant Chief Casteel's improper influence on the graders is an ethical violation that has resulted in the PCPD's failure to promote him. Id. Pugh asserts that the reason he was not promoted was on the basis of his race. Id.

IV. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

The Phenix City Police Department, Chief Smith, and Assistant Chief Casteel (collectively "Defendants") argue that the case is due to be dismissed because "pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) [...] the Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." See Doc. 8 at 2. Specifically, Defendants argue that the "Phenix City Police Department is not a legal entity subject to suit, " and that the "discrimination claims against [Chief Smith and Assistant Chief ...


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