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Greene v. Alabama Department of Revenue

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

September 25, 2017

CHARLES GREENE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE and ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, d/b/a CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM, Defendants.

          MEMORAND OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this retaliation action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, Plaintiff Charles Greene alleges that Defendant Alabama Department of Revenue (“ADR”) fired him either in retaliation for engaging in protected conduct or after being influenced or persuaded by Defendant Alabama Department of Public Health (“ADPH”), his prior employer, to fire him. On August 18, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed a Recommendation (Doc. # 34) that Defendants' separate motions to dismiss (Docs. # 24, 25) be granted. Plaintiff timely objected to the Recommendation. (Doc. # 35.) Upon an independent and de novo review of the record and the Recommendation, Plaintiff's objections are due to be overruled, and the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation is due to be adopted.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8: “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, courts “must accept the well pleaded facts as true and resolve them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Paradise Divers, Inc. v. Upmal, 402 F.3d 1087, 1089 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted); see also Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (“We have held many times when discussing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, that the pleadings are construed broadly, and that the allegations in the complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” (internal citations and quotation marks omitted)).

         To survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, however, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted). If there are “enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to support the claim, there are “plausible” grounds for recovery, and a motion to dismiss should be denied. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The claim can proceed “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). But the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.

         III. DISCUSION

         Plaintiff systematically objects to almost every word of the Discussion section of the Recommendation (Doc. # 34, at 7-13), generally using the same formula. Each of the twelve numbered paragraphs of Plaintiff's objection starts with “Plaintiff objects to the magistrate's legal conclusion, ” followed by a parenthetical citation to the Recommendation that includes the page number and often a more specific part of the cited page. After the parenthetical, every numbered paragraph (except for the first) in Plaintiff's objection continues with “that the allegations of the Amended Complaint are insufficient because, ” (Doc. # 35, at 2-4) (the first paragraph continues with “that the Amended Complaint fails to present factual allegations concerning, ” (Doc. # 35, at 1)). In fact, this formula constitutes the entirety of paragraphs seven and eight, which purport to object to pages ten through eleven and the bottom of page eleven, respectively, but offer no hint as to the grounds of the objection. (Doc. # 35, at 3.)

         After this formulaic start, paragraphs three through six and nine through twelve vary based on the specific part of the Recommendation to which they object and the explanation of the objection. But those objections (with the exception of paragraph ten, discussed separately below) fit into one of two buckets, as they each incorporate Plaintiff's arguments in either paragraph one or paragraph two.

         Paragraphs one and two are consequently the heart of Plaintiff's Objection.

         The arguments therein, along with the other arguments in Plaintiff's Objection, are unavailing.

         A. Plaintiff's objection in paragraph one is without merit because Twombly and Iqbal apply.

         In paragraph one, Plaintiff objects to the Recommendation's conclusion that the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. # 32) as to the causation element of his retaliation claim under Title VII “consist of only the sort of labels and conclusions that, under the standard of Twombley [sic] and Iqbal, are insufficient to state a claim.” (Doc. # 35, at 1 (quoting Doc. # 34, at 7).) Plaintiff argues that his case is distinguishable from Twombly and Iqbal, with the implication being that Twombly and Iqbal therefore do not apply to Plaintiff's Amended ...


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