United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
BRENDA L. DANIEL, Plaintiff,
HUNTSVILLE CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF PARTIAL
Brenda Daniel, is a former employee of the Huntsville City
Board of Education ("the Board"). She asserts that
she was subjected to unlawful race discrimination,
retaliation, and a racially hostile work environment, and she
seeks redress for those alleged wrongs pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.The defendants to
her claims are the Board; Elisa Ferrell, the President of the
Board, who is sued in her official capacity; Beth Wilder, Pam
Hill, Walker McGinnis, and Michelle Watkins, all of whom are
members of the Board, and each of whom is sued in her or his
official capacity; B.T. "Tom" Drake, the Interim
Superintendent of Education, who is sued in his official
capacity; Eugene C. "Casey" Wardynski, the former
Superintendent, who is sued in his individual
capacity; and Presonia Lynette Alexander, the former
Principal of Woodlawn Middle School, who is sued in her
individual capacity. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
punitive damages, back pay, and placement in the position(s)
she would have occupied absent defendants' allegedly
discriminatory and retaliatory treatment.
case currently is before the court on the motion to dismiss
filed by defendants Ferrell, Wilder, Hill, McGinnis, Watkins,
and Drake. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)
permits a party to move to dismiss a complaint for, among
other reasons, "failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule
must be read together with Rule 8(a), which requires that a
pleading contain only a "short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While that pleading
standard does not require "detailed factual allegations,
" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
550 (2007), it does demand "more than an unadorned,
the-defendant- unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citations omitted). As the Supreme Court stated in
A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or
"a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." [Twombly, 550 U.S., at
555]. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked
assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual
enhancement." Id., at 557.
To survive a motion to dismiss founded upon Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), [for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted], a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a
claim for relief that is plausible on its face."
Id., at 570. 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 556. The
plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability
requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.
Ibid. Where a complaint pleads facts that are
"merely consistent with" a defendant's
liability, it "stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to
relief.'" Id., at 557 (brackets omitted).
Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly.
First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of
the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice. Id., at 555 (Although
for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of
the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we
"are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation" (internal quotation
marks omitted)). Rule 8 marks a notable and generous
departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a
prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for
a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.
Second, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id.,
at 556. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense. 490 F.3d,
at 157-158. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit
the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not
"show[n]" - "that the pleader is entitled to
relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).
In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion
to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that,
because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled
to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions
can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be
supported by factual allegations. When there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement to relief.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (emphasis supplied, second
and fourth alterations in original, other alterations
assert that plaintiff s claims against them in their
respective official capacities (which are the only claims
that plaintiff asserted against them) should be dismissed as
redundant of plaintiff s claims against the Board. Indeed,
defendants are correct that official-capacity claims
"generally represent only another way of pleading an
action against an entity of which an officer is an
agent." Monell v. New York CityDept. of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55, 98 S .Ct. 2018,
2035, n. 55, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). As long as the government
entity receives notice and an opportunity to respond, an
official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name,
to be treated as a suit against the entity. Brandon[ v.
Holt], 469 U.S. , 471-472 [(1985)].
Kentucky v. Graham, 3 U.S. 159');">473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985)
(alterations supplied). Other district courts within this
circuit have routinely applied those principles to hold that
official capacity claims against school superintendents and
school board members should be dismissed when the board
itself also is named as a defendant. See, e.g., Barnettv.
Baldwin County Board of Education, 60 F.Supp.3d 1216,
1235-36 (S.D. Ala. 2014); Murray v. Birmingham Board of
Education, No. 2:13-CV-822-KOB, 2013 WL 5923725, at *l-2
(N.D. Ala. Oct. 31, 2013); M.R. v. Board of School
Commissioners of Mobile County, No. CIV.A. 11-0245-WS-C,
2012 WL 2931263, at *2 (S.D. Ala. July 18, 2012); May v.
Mobile County' Public School Sy'stem, , No.
CIV.A. 09-00625-WS-C, 2010 WL 3039181, at *2 n.5 (S.D. Ala.
July 13, 2010), report and recommendation adopted,
No. CIV.A. 09-00625-WS-C, 2010 WL 3039627 (S.D. Ala.
Aug. 4, 2010); Bean v. Fulton County School System,
No. CIV.A. L07-CV-0484JE, 2008 WL 515007, at *2 (N.D.Ga. Feb.
22, 2008); Walton v. Montgomery County Board of
Education, 371 F.Supp.2d 1318, 1324 (M.D. Ala. 2005);
Nixon v. Autauga County Board of Education, 273
F.Supp.2d 1292, 1296-97 (M.D. Ala. 2003).
does not dispute those well-established principles. Instead,
she argues that, because the Board has asserted the
affirmative defense of Eleventh Amendment immunity,
may look to the lone exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity
found in the Ex parte Young[, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)]
exception. Under Ex parte Young, individual
defendants can be named in their official capacity provided
that there is an ongoing violation of federal law which can
be corrected by injunctive relief. Here, there is an ongoing
violation of race discrimination and retaliation which
remains unremedied and which can be corrected by injunctive
relief, i.e., reinstatement.
Doc. no. 14 (Plaintiffs Response in Opposition to
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss), at 3 (alteration
are two flaws in plaintiffs argument. First, the doctrine of
Eleventh Amendment immunity and its exceptions are
irrelevant, because the Eleventh Circuit has recently held
that "local school boards in Alabama are not arms of the
state with respect to" employment-related decisions, and
they consequently are not entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity from ...