United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
April 10, 2017, Plaintiff Debra Hopson (“Hopson”)
initiated this action against Defendants Tyrone Clark, Sr.,
Sheriff Brian Harris, Sumter County Sheriff's Department,
and Sumter County Commission alleging claims pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, specifically violations of her rights
afforded by the Equal Protection Clause and the First
Amendment, as well as claims pursuant to Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. (Doc. 1). Defendants
move to dismiss, arguing Hopson failed to plead sufficient
facts, failed to recognize the Sumter County Commission and
Sumter County Sheriff's Department were not Hopson's
employers and are not the proper defendants for her Title VII
claim, and that Eleventh Amendment immunity shields liability
for some of Hopson's claims. (Doc. 9). In response,
Hopson filed a proposed amended complaint and requested
permission to amend her complaint. (Docs. 15, 15-2).
Defendants reply, stating they do not oppose Hopson amending
her complaint, but argue because the amendment is futile,
even after amendment the complaint is due to be dismissed.
undersigned construes Hopson's response, (doc. 15), as a
motion to amend. As such, the motion to dismiss, (doc. 9), is
DENIED as MOOT. For the
reasons stated below, the motion to amend, (doc. 15), is
GRANTED to the extent described below.
proposed First Amended Complaint, Hopson asserts that former
Sheriff Clark, her former employer, violated the Equal
Protection Clause by sexually harassing her and
discriminating against her during her employment at the
Sumter County Jail. (Doc.15-2, ¶¶ 12, 33). Hopson
alleges former Sheriff Clark called her into his office and
asked her if she was “ready to pay her debt” for
being hired. (Id. at ¶ 14). When Hopson asked
what “debt” he was referring to, former Sheriff
Clark attempted to solicit sexual favors from her and stated
she could use a private bath in his office. (Id. at
¶¶ 16, 17, 34). Hopson asserts her job depended on
her response to former Sheriff Clark's sexual requests.
(Id. at ¶ 33) (“The Equal Protection
claim against Former Sheriff Clark is [sic] are brought in
his individual capacity for sexually propositioning Hopson
and tying her job to his request for sexual favors.”).
states she was placed on administrative leave in February
2016, and told not to report to work. (Doc. 15-2, ¶ 18).
Hopson spoke with investigators about the sexual harassment
she experienced and mismanagement of the jail. (Id.
at ¶20). After giving her statement to investigators, no
one called Hopson back. (Id.). Sometime after being
placed on administrative leave, Hopson testified before a
grand jury at the District Attorney's office, and later
before the Alabama Supreme Court, about Sheriff Clark's
sexual propositions and operation of the jail. (Doc. 15-2,
¶¶ 22, 25). After her grand jury testimony, but
before she testified before the Alabama Supreme Court,
investigators at the District Attorney's office informed
Hopson her employment had been terminated. (Doc. 15-2 ¶
Sheriff Clark was removed from office by the Alabama Supreme
Court, Hopson re-applied for her previous position and was
informed the new Sheriff would decide whether or not to hire
her. (Doc. 15-2, ¶¶ 26, 27). The new sheriff,
Sheriff Harris, has not rehired Hopson. (Id. at
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not
require 'detailed factual allegations, ” but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Mere “labels and conclusions” or A a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are
insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked
assertion[s]” devoid of 'further factual
enhancement.” Id. (citing Bell Atl.
Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., permits dismissal when a complaint
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially
plausible claim for relief “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. (citation omitted). The
complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.;
see also Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555
(“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately,
this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
court will “freely grant” a motion to amend
“when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). The court's discretion in deciding whether to
grant or deny a motion to amend, however, is not unlimited.
Grayson v. K Mart Corp., 79 F.3d 1086, 1110 (11th
Cir. 1996) (citing Espey v. Wainwright, 734 F.2d 748
(11th Cir. 1984); Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Investment
Corp., 6660 F.2d 594 (5th Cir. 1981)). A district court
should allow a plaintiff to amend unless there is a
“substantial countervailing reason.” Id.
Such “substantial countervailing reasons”
include: undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and the
futility of the amendment. Id. (citing Nolin v.
Douglas Cnty., 903 F.2d 1546, 1550 (11th Cir. 1990)).
futility threshold is akin to that for a motion to dismiss;
thus, if the amended complaint could not survive Rule
12(b)(6) scrutiny, then the amendment is futile and leave to
amend is properly denied.” B.D. Stephenson Trucking
LLC v. Riverbrooke Capital Partners, LLC, No.
06-0343-WS-M, 2006 WL 2772673, at *6 (S.D. Ala. Sept. 26,
2006) (citing Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d
1310, 85 F.3d 1514, 1520 (11th Cir. 1996). Accordingly,
Plaintiff will only be permitted to amend the First Amended
Complaint if the proposed claims withstand Rule 12(b)(6)
proposed amended complaint, Hopson asserts claims for Equal
Protection and First Amendment Retaliation against Sheriff
Clark and claims for First Amendment Retaliation against
Sheriff Harris, and Title VII claims for discrimination and
retaliation against Sumter County Sheriff's Department
and Sumter County Commission. (Doc. 9).
Claims against former Sheriff Clark
Equal Protection and First Amendment Retaliation claims
against former Sheriff Clark are brought ...